Leveraging Malawi’s creative talent

Author:Catherine Jewell
Position:Communications Division, WIPO
SUMMARY

Malawi’s Lake of Stars Music Festival, inspired by events like WOMAD and Glastonbury, gives a hint of the dynamism of Malawi’s cultural scene and its economic potential. In 2015, the festival attracted 79 Malawian acts and generated nearly USD 1.5 million. Recognizing its huge potential, the Government of Malawi is galvanizing efforts to support the growth of the country’s creative sector. And ... (see full summary)

 
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A 2013 WIPO study estimated that Malawi’s creative sector contributes around 3.4 percent to the country’s GDP, highlighting its importance and significant growth potential. On the strength of these findings national decision-makers are actively supporting efforts to build the nation’s creative ecosystem. Fostering the conditions for Malawi’s creators (visual artists, musicians, authors, filmmakers and more) to thrive, they believe, will support their drive to improve the country’s economic outlook.

“The creative sector is an important asset for countries like Malawi that face low commodity prices in global markets and a host of technical barriers to trade in export markets,” explains Ambassador Robert Salama, Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations in Geneva. “Development of this sector is important for employment creation and for generating much-needed foreign exchange. It has the potential to generate thousands of jobs for young people and millions of dollars in revenue,” he says, pointing to the experiences of Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.

Kenya’s creative sector, for example, accounts for 5.3 percent of GDP, twice the figure for agriculture. Similarly in Nigeria, Nollywood, the world’s fastest-growing film industry, is responsible for creating more than a million jobs and has annual sales of some USD 5 billion.

“In Malawi, we have a wonderful creative sector which is playing a significant role in the creation of employment and generation of foreign exchange,” Mr. Salama says.

“We believe strongly in the opportunity which the creative industries can deliver to our people, not only for economic growth and employment, but also for the promotion of our language and the preservation of our cultural heritage.”

A copyright law fit for the digital age

In 2016, Malawi’s Government ramped up its drive to translate the promise of Malawi’s creative wealth into concrete economic outcomes. In July 2016, Parliament passed a new copyright law which sets the scene for Malawi’s creative sector to take full advantage of the opportunities of the digital age, bringing the country’s copyright law into line with current international intellectual property (IP) standards.

“Malawi’s new law makes it possible for us to better promote the economic rights of creators and to crack down on piracy,” says Dora Makwinja-Salamba, Executive Director of the Copyright Society of Malawi (COSOMA). The law introduces new provisions on online licensing to...

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