“All roads lead to Kilembe.” As a child growing up in Uganda, I heard that statement countless times. Kilembe, a town in Western Uganda, is best known for its rich copper mines, and copper exports have been considered a major source of income for the country since the colonial days. The Ugandan people were told then, and still told today, that their prosperity depends on mining and drilling for oil. When I was young, my passion was music, and I dreamed of earning a living as a musician. But I often heard from my mother that the colonialists had considered African music meaningless. Nobody seemed to take music or other arts seriously as a potential source of wealth, in Uganda or anywhere else in Africa.
While the African continent is rich in oil, gas, precious metals, and other minerals, rampant corruption and tax evasion deny the ordinary citizen in Africa any profit or income. “Wealth that enslaves the owner isn’t wealth,” the Yoruba people of West Africa say. Unfortunately, Africa’s poor are enslaved in poverty today. How, then can Africa survive?
An unlikely sector may be part of the solution. African citizens could reap major economic and social benefits if their governments more efficiently develop and promote their cultural activities – music, painting, sculpture, design, literature, publishing, and the performing arts that all make up the “creative sector.” Ripe with opportunity, Africa could promote its own heritage and build a sustainable economy for itself.
Read the full op-ed