By Isaac Osei and Michael ThompsonAn economy is the foundation on which nations are described, labeled or categorized. Nations that are regarded as power wielders are those that have strong economies. Their categorization as global powers in terms of trade, education, creative arts, technology and politics are not based on race or geography, but because of their dedication to building strong economic empires which include all industries that contribute to the development agenda.
Ghana with all the rich natural resources and intellectual properties cannot be weighed on the same development scale with these advance countries due to the neglect of some development sectors of which the creative arts industry is a part.
Annual budgetary allocations to the arts industry, if done at all, are rather insignificant and not capable of stimulating growth dynamics that would propel the industry into a self-sustaining sector.
Instructively, the 2012 budget statement for the first time, allocated GHC2 million to the Musicians Association of Ghana (MUSIGA).
Comparatively, for most of the advanced countries, the arts industry is a very important tool for development.
Europe is one continent that is very well concerned with culture and arts; this has therefore allowed governments and other cultural departments across Europe to draw well laid down policies for the industry and how they finance them.
In the UK, the creative industries were valued at £57 billion in 2006, which is a £25.8 billion increase from 1997 as stated by KEA European Affair in 2006.
Across many states in Europe, the arts and creative industry contributes between 0.2 percent and 3.0 percent to national GDP.
The global trade in creative goods and services remained very hearty, even during the financial and economic breakdown, the worth of global export of creative goods and services reached nearly US$600 billion between 2002 and 2008.
Though, in Ghana, some cultural and arts policies have been engraved to keep the creative arts industry on its feet, less is seen on how these policies are being implemented.
The cry for support
On normal days, many young men and women who are into different areas in the creative arts industry, especially those into such crafts as wood carvings, beads and paintings, are seen roaming the various beaches in Accra. They take their products to these beaches with the hope of getting expatriates to purchase them.
Nii Teiko is a young local who roams the La and Tawala beaches in search of expatriate buyers for his products. He is an artist whose paintings are influenced by his cultural background.
Nii says his paintings tell local African stories and they are easy to be understood and appreciated byanybody who loves art.
He says life is very difficult as most young Ghanaian artists who have “no support from rich relatives.”
“We don’t get anything from what we do,” he says. “There are many young people like me who are also creative and can paint well, but they say they are going to look for better jobs to do.”
Looking tired and desperate to get clients to buy his painting at Tawala, Nii Teiko says; “We are not telling people or government to give us all their monies; we just want them to support us small”
Where the support goes
In the 2012 budget, the then President Professor J.E.A Mills said “An amount of GH¢2.0 million has been allocated to support the creative arts industry in 2012.”
Though it was seen as a small amount as compared to monies allocated to other economic sectors, individuals in the industry appreciated it and only hoped it was paving way for more money to be pumped into creative arts.
Indications are that all the GH¢2.0 million was given to the Musicians Union of Ghana (MUSIGHA) to the neglect of the theatre arts, film industry, painting and sculpture.
Eyebrows have been raised about how MUSIGHA used the money. This is because some areas in the creative industry didn’t get their share of the money and MUSIGHA has failed to account for it.
On the other hand, one cannot blame the Musicians Association for not disbursing the budget allocation to other areas of the industry because it was instructively stated in the 2012 budget that the money was going to MUSIGHA, therefore making it clear that MUSIGHA is the face of the arts industry in Ghana.
This leaves people to wonder which industry the government places theatre arts, film industry, and the painting and sculpture industry?
Many young Ghanaians who are into the creative arts industry are considering quitting their jobs in the creative art industry to find “better jobs.”
Finding Better Jobs
One of the many Ghanaian youth who wants to find a “better job” is 25 years old Ama Asantewaa, a fashion designer. Ama lives with her mum and four siblings at Teshie Nungua, a suburb of Tema.
She makes handmade dresses for both men and women.
Asantewaa agrees with Nii that their part of creative arts has been neglected by the government and people who should be concerned about it.
Ama says on the usual, her products are sold for GHC 35 cedis per dress but because she wants to get herproducts sold quickly, she reduce the prices to as low as 20 or 18 cedis.
Job creation is one major problem in Ghana. Even with all the potential job avenues in the creative industry many youth walk the streets of Accra without jobs.
Governments can rely on this industry to reduce the high level of youth unemployment if adequate attention is given it.