Made in Uganda: unleashing the economic potential of the creative industries

Participants of the UNESCO project “Strengthening the sustainability of creative industries in Uganda” came together on 26 April to celebrate World Intellectual Property Day (WIPD) during an event organized in Kampala, Uganda. The event highlighted the importance of intellectual property rights in sustaining women in creative fields. It also marked the conclusion of the capacity-building project, which had begun in July 2016.

Increasing emphasis has been placed on the creative economy in Uganda. In 2009, a first mapping exercise of cultural and creative industries (CCIs) undertaken by the UNESCO National Commission of Uganda showed that the cultural sector in the country fosters economic growth, job creation, exports earnings and promotes social inclusion, cultural diversity and human resource development.

According to the 2018 UNESCO Global Report “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies” CCIs account for 2,250 billion U$D and employ 30 million people worldwide. Moreover, CCIs typically employ more people aged 15-20 years than any other sector in Europe.

In Uganda, the crafts industry has gained particular recognition as an engine of economic development.

Promoting economic empowerment

As a result of intense campaigns and awareness-raising on “Buy Uganda”, the importance of handicraft production has seen an upswing as the industry is perceived as a potential business opportunity for sustainable income generation and attracting more and more artisans, traders and exporters.

The project implemented in the framework of the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural expressions and funded by the Republic of Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, aimed at strengthening the artistic, marketing and management skills of women professionals in the crafts industry with the end goal to improve the quality of their products and open market access.  

As noted in UNESCO’s Global Report “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies”, limited access to markets represents one of the main challenges facing artists and cultural professional from the global South.

Fostering innovation

As part of the last phase of the project, six women professionals who had participated in the workshops attended the WIPD event organized by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau in Kampala, Uganda. The event provided a networking opportunity to meet other cultural professionals as well as to highlight their products. A corridor was set up for the women professionals to display their work and discuss with the various attendees, including Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives of Uganda.  

The event highlighted the central role that intellectual property rights play in sustaining cultural professionals.

“Being innovate and being creative are at the heart of the crafts industry. I want my products to reflect this while at the same time say ‘this is Uganda’,” said Francesa Onek Lakot, a multi-disciplinary designer from Northern Uganda who participated in the project.

The importance of intellectual property rights is also highlighted in the preamble of the 2005 Convention.