Botswana unveils roadmap for revival of the creative industry

  • Proposes P20m investment to put creatives back to work
  • Suggests tax on digital and Internet services to raise revenue

GOSEGO MOTSUMI The Creative Arts and Media Sector at Business Botswana has devised a roadmap for moving the sector out of the rut of COVID-19, the Chairman of the sector, Tonderai Tsara, has said. Tsara noted that the creative sec-tor was one of the first to be affect-ed by the pandemic with events being cancelled as early as April and that the sector is likely to be the last to re-open. “The sector is hurting because COVID-19 has been a severe challenge to the industry,” he told journalists at a briefing in Gaborone.

“However, this does not mean that the creative sector must die. Events are not taking place and the current conditions do not permit the economies of scale suitable for staging an event and making a prof-it when you are limited to a certain number of people and the crew that stages the event are half of the required number.”

Business Botswana, which aims to ease the way of doing business in Botswana, has worked on a recovery plan for the entire private sector. It enlisted the support of the UNDP, a top Motswana economist and experts from other parts of the world to draw the roadmap. For the creative sector, they proposed taxing digital and Internet services to raise revenue.

“There is a need to inject revenue into the sector as a stimulus,” Tsara said. “As we move towards the digital space such as Zoom and others, a lot of people are purchasing these services abroad and they are not taxed. So the first proposal was that government could tax these services.”

For the stimulus, Tsara proposed P20 million as the amount fit for injecting into a recovery fund for the creative sector to use to mount a wide range of events that can put Batswana to work. He saw this as preferable to giving people hand-outs because it would engage them in productive work.

“Batswana still need entertainment and there is Independence to celebrate,” he said. “The idea was to put a fund together so that creatives can continue in their vocation.”

Other proposals include the National Arts Council Bill that was set to be presented at a Parliament session on Tuesday night at the time of press. Consensus in the sector is that the industry needs an independent organization to shepherd the arts rather than the task being done by the existing government department.

Tsara noted that news organizations, particularly the private media, are under strain due to COV-ID-19 and that reforms are needed to cushion the effects of the pandemic. “We do not want to come out of COVID-19 without robust media, which are channels of news and information for Batswana,” he said.

Speaking at the same briefing, Creative Arts Consultant, Gao Lemmenyane, said the creative industry has the most effective means of communicating COVID-19 mes-sages. Putting creatives to work would ensure that people respond better to the pandemic through creative messaging as jobs are created in the industry.