From : Public Communications Office

Date   : 4th August, 2015

By Sammy Kwichichi Wekesa

Deputy President Mr. William Ruto yesterday called on the East African Community (EAC) Partner States to nurture the Arts and Culture as one way of ensuring that the envisaged EAC Political Federation becomes a reality in the near future.

He said the Kenya government established a Ministry responsible for Sports, Culture and the Arts because it believes creativity and culture are so important, they need a home. The goal is to ensure that country pays particular attention to the implementation of policies for the promotion and development of creative talents.

The EAC Partner States under Article 119 of the EAC treaty, added Mr. Ruto, undertook to promote close co-operation amongst themselves in culture and sports, with respect to the promotion of cultural activities, including the fine arts, literature, music and performing arts and other artistic creations as one way of creating an East African as one Community

He was speaking yesterday when he opened a one-week 2nd Jumuiya Ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival(JAMAFET), at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre, Nairobi. Participants were drawn from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda.

The 20th Meeting of the East African Community Council of Ministers held on 20th March 2010 and subsequent Council of Ministers’ Meeting held in September 2011, directed the EAC Secretariat to organize regular EAC Arts and Culture Festival in the EAC Partner States on rotational basis. The first edition was held in February 2013 in Kigali Rwanda and attracted an audience of over 17,500 people.

“We are here today as people with a common destiny; as a people with a common aspiration; we are here because we understand that the mutual appreciation of our unique cultures is one of the best ways to strengthen the East African bond. We are here because there is nothing as powerful as using the arts and our talents to tell the East African story”, stressed Mr. Ruto. 

He said that the biggest East African Treaties may be negotiated by Ministers and Presidents but the biggest and perhaps most enjoyable agreements are written in Bongo Flava- through the music of Diamond and Christina Shuho; through the genius of Ann Kansime and the tones of Sauti Sol.

Stressing the importance of Arts and Culture, the Deputy President said the Arts are often the best part of any culture because they go straight to the heart. The vision of an artist, the precision of a sculptor and the twist of a dancer does not require a passport. And that’s what we are here to celebrate and affirm, he said.

This festival is not just for cementing our social relations as East Africans but it is also a strategy to promote mutual trade, cultural and artistic cooperation among our people.

When we appreciate each other, we understand each other; when we understand each other we can work together and succeed at anything we choose. When we understand each other-our union cannot be defeated.

Given the strides in technology and communication, today’s EAC, with 150 million people, stands a better chance of succeeding than at any other time. Today, trade is just a button away.

It is a fact that our region is endowed with a rich and diverse cultural heritage; with a variety of rich artistic expressions which are part of our common identity as the people of East Africa.

We are creating a new culture-an East African culture-a brilliant melting pot of everything.

In expressions such as music, dance, drama, art and crafts, people share norms and values and are able to express their unity but even more importantly they are able to sustain it for generations.

He reminded participants that In 2013, the United Nations Creative Economy Report, co-published by UNESCO revealed that the creative economy – which covers audiovisual products, design, new media, performing arts, publishing and visual arts – is one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy.

According to UNCTAD, from 2002 to 2011, the global trade of creative goods and services more than doubled, reaching a record US$624 billion. On the other hand exports of creative goods increases 12.1% annually in developing-countries.

In these countries, the creative economy is becoming more and more crucial as a source of job creation and income.

Mr. Ruto said a market of 150 million people has the capacity to sustain the creative appetites of the talented among us. We cannot and should not be a society where any talented individual is unable to utilize their potential and live a decent life.

The creative industry is growing. And in line with the Common Market Protocol, we in the EAC, must develop strategies through which the region can benefit from this lucrative trade opportunity to realize development gains.

There is abundance of creative talents and rich cultural assets with a huge economic potential particularly for job creation.

The rise of the digital economy and the increasing commercialization of the arts and culture globally is a big opportunity for us. Creative industries also offer more sustainable development options than traditional exports because the sector draws on the creativity of local artists and entrepreneurs, generating higher levels of local value-addition.

To the talented all over East Africa, I ask you to sharpen your skills and keep honing them.  I also ask you to get some business knowledge; learn some entrepreneurial skills as well.

Cabinet Secretary for East African Affairs, Commerce and Tourism Mrs. Phyliss Kandie said in a speech she read on behalf of the EAC Council of Minister’s chair , said a Political Federation within the EAC cannot be achieved without involving the grass root community through the Arts, Culture and Sports.

She said the Council of Ministers was happy that the decision they made has been fully implemented by the EAC Secretariat.

The cabinet Secretary said Kenya was granted the opportunity to host the 2nd Edition of the festival by the 11th Sectoral Council on Education,             Science and Technology, culture and Sports, a decision that was endorsed by the 28th meeting of the Council of Ministers in November, 2013.

Amongst the objectives of the festival include; provision of a platform to showcase culture as a primary driver of regional integration and sustainable development; bring together East African Cultural Practitioners and administrators to celebrate the rich and diverse cultural heritage as well as contemporary practice of East Africa.

Sports, Culture and The Arts Cabinet Secretary Dr. Hassan Wario announced that a Music Policy, whose objective is to ensure that musicians don’t remain paupers or at the mercy of producers, was already in place.

EAC Secretariat Secretary General Dr. Richard Sezibera commended the Kenya Government for hosting the festival, which has attracted artists, musicians and dancers from the region with international reputation.

The opening ceremony was also attended by the principal Secretaries Mr. John O. Konchellah(East African Affairs), Amb. Richard T. Ekai(Sports, Culture and The Arts) Local organizing committee chairman Mr. Wenslaus Ong’ayo, Festival Director Mr. Nicholas Ole Moipei, and Nairobi Deputy Governor, Hon Jonathan Mueke, among others.