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Cruising blindly in promising industry

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The arts industry, touted as Malawi’s next economic growth engine, has been operating in the dark as its eggs, in terms of contribution to Malawi’s economy, cannot be counted. The last count was in 2009, when the copy-right based industries were ranked eighth in terms of contribution to Malawi’s economy.

When the World Intellectual Property Organisation in March 2013 published a report titled ‘The Economic Contribution of Copyright-Based Industries in Malawi’, artists breathed a sigh of relief.

The hope was that economic steps being taken by the copyright-based industries would be measured every year or, at best, every now and then.

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“The copyright-based industries, which include the music industry, is not often evaluated, and this leaves artists in the dark in terms of their contribution to the national economy. So, it was good that a report was issued some seven, eight years ago,” says veteran artist, Lommie Mafunga, of ‘Baba Mica’ fame.

In 2009, Wipo indicated in a report prepared by Lizzie Chikoti, Jameson Ndawala and Rosario Kamanga that copyright-based industries were contributing significantly to Malawi’s economy.

The Agriculture, forestry and fishing industries were the main contributor to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2009, contributing 32.90 percent. The manufacturing industry came second, contributing 10.8 percent of GDP.

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Public Administration and Defence came third, contributing 8:19 percent, followed by real estate activities (8.01 percent), wholesale and retail trade (7.63 percent), information and communication (4.48 percent), financial and insurance sector (4:44 percent).

Copyright based industries came eighth, with a reported contribution of 3:46 percent of GDP. The industries were followed by personal services (2:93 percent) and education sector (2:86).

However, there is no information available on how much the copyright-based industries have contributed in the past two years, meaning that the arts are cruising blindly.

According to the report, the economic contribution of the copyright-based industries in Malawi was estimated using indicators such as gross output, GDP, remuneration (employee incomes) and employment share in the economy.

“The total copyright-based industries as defined by Wipo are estimated to have contributed to the Malawi economy in 2009 as follows: K30,478,125,760 of value-added or 3.46 percent of GDP; K65,181,173,630 of the gross output or 3.65 percent of total output; K9,053,969,130 of the wage bill or 3.98 percent of the total employees income,” reads the report.

It further indicates that, in 2009, the copyright-based industries employed 26,704 persons or 3.35 [percent] of the total national workforce in both the government and private sector.

“The economic contribution of copyright-based industries in Malawi was 3.46 percent of GDP. For comparison, among other countries that have conducted a similar analysis, Kenya’s copyright-based industries contributed 5.3 percent of GDP in 2007; in Mexico, the contribution was about 4.77 percent of GDP in 2003; in Jamaica in 2005, the contribution of copyright-based industries was about 4.8 percent of GDP.

“In all these cases, the economic contribution of copyright-based industries to the national economy as measured by GDP was higher than that for Malawi. This may partly be attributed to the problems in the availability of data, as most of the copyright-based industries in Malawi are small-scale and there were challenges in obtaining information for this study,” adds the report.

It, however, observes that one of its shortfalls is that it does not “capture a number of core copyright-based industries, including other relevant business activities, activities of professional organisations, motion pictures, other recreation activities, and libraries and archives. For this reason, the estimated contribution of the copyright-based industries is relatively low because of the low recorded contribution of the core copyright-based industries, which is 0.5 percent”.

However, some artists have observed that 2016 was a success and that they are bound to build on that success.

Artist Sam Smack indicates, for example, that, having released some songs that won fans’ hearts, he is bound to come back stronger this year.

“People should expect things such as singles and the like. I am looking forward to the year,” Sam Smack indicates.

Another artist, Erik Paliani, indicates that 2017 will not pass him by.

“There is something cooking [up]. People should just look forward to it,” Paliani, who late last year returned from South Africa, says.

For others such as Sir Lucius Banda of Impakt Events, 2016 was a successful year and things should surely improve this year.

“We will invite several international artists this year and people should expect big things,” Banda says.

When the year comes to an end, though, there is likely to be nobody who will measure progress in economic terms

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