Woes of an ungoverned creative industry

  • The industry is not regulated or sactioned by an act- Artists
  • Importance of functioning structures and the quest for an act


Lack of regulatory framework and corporate governance is a death knell to the local arts scene, musicians who attended Botswana International Music Conference (BIMC) last week have expressed.

Hosted by the National Museum, the annual conference gathers multitudes to discuss matters of growth, regulations, networking, marketing and transformation of the creative arts sector into a viable economy booster.

Currently, the artists said they are facing various challenges since existing structures such as unions have limited powers because the industry is not regulated and sanctioned by any act of parliament.

The guest speaker, Elizabeth Lenjo, an advocate in the Kenyan High Court who specializes in media, entertainment, fashion and intellectual property laws said contrary to popular belief, unions have ample powers because there is an act that recognizes, registers them and mandates them on how they should operate. In order to be a part of a movement or any agenda, Lenjo said artists needed to be members of what already exists, which is a registered union in Botswana’s case.

“So when you are a member of these structures and you are aware of how it runs you can easily overturn the sitting officials because that is your power.  That is where you need to start, realising what is not happening and flip the switch on that because corporate governance is an important issue for our associations and unions,” she said, adding that the biggest problems especially for Africans in the creative sector is that they are not trusting of each other.

She advised that, “As an artist you must sit down to do your craft and find competent people who have the skills and passion for the industry on the business side.  You hire a lawyer, PR team,  an accountant, economist and put them to task and your challenges can be easily solved.”

Moreover, artists revealed that other industries in Botswana had an act that sanctions them except for the creative industry citing that, “Anyone can come and do anything, even a medical doctor can organise a gig and get funding from the government.” They gave an example of how less than 2% of people directly involved in the creative industry beneffited from the P100 million budget allocated for the BOT50 celebrations in 2016 indicating that an act would have helped more creatives to benefit from the funds.

Furthermore, when it comes to a quest to have an act for the industry, Lenjo warned that artists needed to be careful because law casts things in stone. She advised that the Copyright Act had to be properly constructed as well as the Trademarks Act and all the other legal entities as far as intellectual property regimes are concerned.

She reiterated that associations and unions were important because they can enable artists to set the rules of acredited industry players to curtail fly by night practitioners. Also, with these structures artists can easily have legal experts who can help draft a bill and hand it to the minister for tabling before parliament.

“If the union has a PR team it will engage the media on the submitted bill and no government likes controversy and no government likes to look like they are stealing from their people. So with a properly constructed law if the bill is already at fault the president will hault the situation, the reading will stop and the minister will be asked to go back to amend,” she said, warning that there is a danger in trying to regulate a business  through an act.

“That would mean there will be certain things you can’t change and the creative industry is very dynamic. It’s a painful process to amend an act,” she concluded.