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Think of all the creative ‘gods’ that have been a significant part of our life over the years – favourite actors, actresses and directors, bands, singers, musicians, models, fashion designers, authors, poets and artists. Each of these connected with us because “their true value is their ability to generate something real and tangible, simply by unlocking the creative potential that exists everywhere in all communities and societies on our planet”, explains Caroline Norbury MBE, founding Chief Executive of Creative England. President Mitterrand, speaking about the French film industry also famously said “These are not just commodities; they are creations of the spirit.”

The deity bestowed upon our creative gods is massive with religious-like social media followings and making money which, at times, is incomprehensible, yet their influence on us is powerfully palpable; how we think, what we wear, watch, eat, drink and listen to – a song by a low-key artist from some town or village will probably not be memorable, but if exactly the same song is ‘dropped’ by Kanye West, we’re all over it!

Last week Friday, the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and her Deputy Pinky Kekana hosted over 200 creatives in a round table engagement at the 22 on Sloane start-up campus in Bryanston. They were joined by the Minister of Small Business Development Lindiwe Zulu.

This focused on how best the creative industry can leverage the advent of the 4IR and included local musicians, artists, actors, producers and many other creatives.

Photo: Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

As alluded to earlier, the true value of this sector is that most, if not all their work, borrows from their real personal experiences, all the emotional influences, both happy and sad, from within their communities along their life’s journey, which deeply resonates with all of us, young or old (and often subliminally, whether we realise it or not). Think of South Africa’s very own multiple award-winning Trevor Noah and how many people watch his Daily Show and how is he, as a brand, influencing the minds of his millions of daily viewers?

Recently, British actor Nicholas Pinnock visited South Africa to film a TV commercial for one of the country’s top financial brands, which coincidently promotes the fact that amidst all the 4IR-hype, the company still offers solutions constructed by real people for real people. He said he did it because he loved the script as it mirrored his mission, which is to understand and connect with people because that’s what he does for a living.

Also, think of South Africa’s ‘infamous’ Rasta, the artist who is renowned for painting deceased famous people or controversial figures. I bet his work is not just for fun, he must have had a personal connection with his subjects.

Let’s look at the 4IR challenges facing the creative industry, starting with the technical journey and how it can impact it. Years ago, we bought music on CD’s and rented videos on VHS from our corner store Blockbuster. Now everything’s changed. One can literally watch movies and series on the device of your choice (TV, tablet, laptop or mobile) from various streaming providers, such as Netflix, StreamShark, YouTube, Facebook and Periscope (and that’s really just naming a few). Also, gone are the days of lucrative album deals for muso’s because now you can just download or listen to your music (often just your favourite track rather than the entire album) from Spotify, ITunes, Deezer, Mixclouds, grooveshark and yes, loads of others for a mere pittance. Today, arguably many artists make the most of their moolla from live concerts. For authors, it is believed that AI will write the first best seller and produce the best movie, it will write the script complete with stage instructions. AI will also help with music composition and sound tracks. Gone are those days you seat in studios cracking your brains. The machines are coming, and we have to ready for it. AI technology can now even make descriptions of what you instruct it to do. Just check out the website: – I came across it last week.

To get yourself seen or heard (or both) you’d need to travel and audition live. Now you just shoot content with a smartphone and upload it in seconds onto one of the various social sharing digital platforms to be viewed across the world with a click, while you chill out and cash in.

Yes, digital has made the industry more accessible for creative content providers, but it’s also creating a content overload environment (for all forms thereof) forcing the content consumer to constantly separate the wheat from the chaff, which takes time. My family have access to DStV premium and Netflix and I’m sure between us, we haven’t consumed even 1% of the offered content. I bet many people find themselves in the same quagmire.

Amidst the 4IR, ‘change is the only constant’ rings truer than ever before and many creative players will find it difficult to cope. With the competition increasing rapidly on a mind-blowing level and more people having easy access to the industry, the revenue generated in the industry will also continue to decrease because there’s so many players vying for their piece of the pie, except for the sacred cows.

Another difficulty the industry faces especially for young creatives is access to capital and for the various financial institutions, venture capitalists and investors to take them seriously. That’s because there is no way to actually value the industry, or rather the value of the industry is based on perceptions or your ability to convince your content consumer to like your product and keep supporting you. It is estimated that the creative industry is worth over USD$600billion. On the upside, the digital world has collapsed all barriers. So any young creative, anywhere can become a YouTube sensation in literally ten minutes. One can also easily experience a safari tour without really being at a safari tour. The work of the guys from latest sightings now makes it easier for anyone to take a video when they are at a safari and post it online.

Still on the upside, it’s important to note that out of all the labour sectors, the two that will be least affected by the 4IR are the IT and Creative sectors. In addition, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), the top three skills needed in the labour market by 2020, will be Critical Thinking Skills, Complex Problem Solving Ability and yes, Creativity.

For my closing, I chose a short piece which really hits home for all the young, hopeful and creative South Africans out there. According to the Leaders in Motion Academy (LIM), “Without an understanding, nurturing and skilling of the cultural and creative industries in our economy, South Africa runs the risk of skilling our creative and multi-talented youth for jobs that will no longer exist in the next twenty years. Alternatively, South Africa could be on the cutting edge of empowering a workforce of young, emerging creatives that will find employment and innovate new businesses in the vast digital networks and markets that cross borders, the holders of the ‘currency’ of the future.

There is also a widely held view that modern economies that will undergo a Fourth Industrial Revolution successfully will not be those that worship machines, but those that support human creativity”.

The Machines are coming but building and nurturing the human element and creativity will only make it even better.


Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa, 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.

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