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Creative industry watchdog, KECOBO admits failures

By Steve Umidha

The Kenya’s multi-billion creative industry may fail to meet its growth potential owing to the challenges posed by the regulator’s inability to arrest runaway exploitation by certain players.

While there have been attempts to address those concerns, the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) – a state agency tasked to enforce and administer copyright and related rights issues in the sector, last week admitted to existing failures on its part.

“The management of copyright in Kenya is a mess. Effecting reforms in Kenya is fraught with various difficulties,” noted the Board’s executive director Edward Sigei.

In a statement last Wednesday, Mr Sigei instead faulted the Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) for reckless expenditure and failure to account for monies collected on behalf of artists –a responsibility that should ironically do be undertaken under the Board’s supervision.

KECOBO is mandated by law to license and oversee all activities of such entities – organizations he believes have been riddled by complaints of harassment of music users “and having multiple collecting entities causing a rise in cost of administering the payment and distribution of royalties.”

His comments now paint a picture of a toothless dragon – by a regulator, whose primary accountability is to enforce and protect copyrights by players and beneficiaries registered with the Parastatal.

KECOBO’s other responsibility is the registration of copyrights, licensing of collective management organization and education on matters of copyright and related rights.

As a result, those remarks are feared could put at risk the country’s creative sector which in the period 2007-2009, was worth over Sh85 billion, or 5.3 percent of GDP.

The government believes the industry is now worth more and has the potential to become a key catalyst to the country’s economic growth which had the prospective of doubling its contribution to the GDP to 10 percent by 2020 on a sustained manner.

At a continental level, Africa’s share of the global creative economy is thought to be less than 1 percent and that the export of creative goods in Africa increased by only 0.6 percent between 2002 and 2010, according the United Nation (UN) estimates. UNCTAD reported a 13.9 per cent growth rate of cultural industries in Africa in 2008 with Kenya among markets with growth prospects.

Creative economy is described in term of cultural assets in which creativity is applied to generate economic growth and development. It involves economic, cultural and social assets as they interact with technology and intellectual property to produce a vibrant economy.

Concerns about KECOBO’s lack of providing up to date statistics about the sector’s growth in terms of value has also made it difficult for industries such as media, policy makers and relevant stakeholders from gauging the sector’s real potential growth.

“The creative industry in Kenya lacks cohesiveness, leadership and engagement platforms to champion policy advocacy,” according to a report by Business Environment Forum facility conducted in 2016, christened, Creative Economy Business Environment Reform in Kenya.

The never-ending complains from the sector, saw the authority in early last year following a presidential directive, was compelled to develop a broad analysis of the sector’s challenges and a framework for the comprehensive reform of the copyright sector was formulated, which Mr Sigei said was still under execution.

It seeks among other things, to offer zero tolerance for the misappropriation or improper use of artists’ royalties, automation of the processes of copyright registration, royalty collection and distribution and the general administration of the sector as well as giving institutional reforms and strengthening allied organizations among others.

“As we speak, all organizations dealing with royalties have been comprehensively audited and the findings forwarded to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI). The DCI have completed investigations and the matter is now in the hands of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Judiciary,” said Sigei, adding that an estimated Sh.180 million has since been collected through the digital self-licensing framework.

The Board has also vowed to discern noncompliance of licenses in a process that could see a revocation of licenses of KAMP, PRISK and MCSK.

“This process is still underway,” he said.

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