Until recently, the outbreak of COVID-19 globally has exposed gaps in the management of the creative sector in Malawi. The global pandemic has left hundreds destitute and demanding more from government to alleviate them from economically induced challenges that came with COVID-19.
Among other preventive measures, government imposed a ban on social gatherings including music shows and concerts. The development left many musicians and artists with little or no source of income.
Limbani Kalilani, one of the renowned musicians is sharing his struggle to survive after the spread of Covid-19 in Malawi and across the globe.
Tay Grin: We Have Been Affected
“Currently, we are facing the era of the pandemic. We are not able to be as free in order to do live shows. And recently, there has been a restriction in international travels, again, which is making it impossible for us to do international shows. This has affected us in great deal,” said Tay Grin.
His story is shared among many creative players who are failing to make ends meet. In February 2015, a new cultural policy was adopted by cabinet that was preceded by its launch. The move excited key players in the cultural and creative industries.
Among other merits, the new policy was allowing government to fund arts and cultural institutions. The most important element is still the establishment of the National Arts and Heritage Council (NAHEC) which will help to coordinate the arts, cultural and creative industries.
Six years down the line, MBC has established that the bill that will establish NAHEC is yet to be tabled in parliament to allow the Ministry of Finance to release funds for what will be National Arts and Creative Council (NAHEC) while the Police and courts will be mandated to fight piracy.
This according to Eric Trinta of Nyamithambo Arts Palace in Nsanje is worrisome.
“We have seen the minister coming out saying that he is doing everything possible for us, as Malawi, to have an art council and the bill will be tabled. But when we are looking at the other adding values; the ministries of Justice and Finance, for them to take this thing forward-it’s taking time. The Ministry of Arts and Culture did their part by bringing in the cultural policy, and all we just need is the enactment of the bill for us to have the council,” said Trinta.
Kamtukule: Job Creation Now a Project
On his assessment of the debut year of Tonse Alliance led government, Arts commentator Wonderful Mkhutche said artists will remember the year 2020 as the most difficult year for the creative industries. Mkhutche has since asked government to move with speed to address challenges artists are encountering to access royalties from Copyright Society of Malawi – COSOMA on a regular basis.
“An Art Council by all means is necessary and it will be a big step forward. But as we stand now, there is a big gap between artists and policy makers. An art council will not only ensure that artists benefit but also that the economy gains from artistic and cultural works,” said Mkhutche.
According to the Malawi Growth Development Strategy 3 which runs from 2017 to 2022 tourism was earmarked as one of the sectors that can contribute immensely to economic growth. For instance in 2016, the tourism sector contributed 7 percent of Gross Domestic Product – GDP and accounted 6 percent of total employment. This is owed to rich and diverse cultural heritage that has created a number of opportunities in the long run.
Speaking in a separate interview, deputy minister of labor Vera Kamtukula conceded that the Tonse led administration faced challenges to create 1 million jobs in the first year. On overage, Kamtukule said all the sectors of the economy are crucial if the country is to create more opportunities for its people.
“As a Government Programme we have been championing since we took over office, we have tied creation of jobs component as a project,” she said.
For now, Tay Grin challenges government to consider tax waivers on importation of equipment to alleviate some of the challenges that have come as a result of the spread of Covid-19.
Elsewhere, for instance in Nigeria in 2016, the film industry contributed 2.3 percent of its Gross Domestic Product – GDP while the music industry grew by 9 percent and is set to grow by 13 percent this year. Today, Malawi has the largest population of youth accounting to 40 percent of Malawi’s population which is put at over 15 million.