Creative artists face a long road to pandemic recovery

Thursday February 03 2022
Lily Kadima

Lily Kadima performs in Kampala. Few live events were held in the past two years. PHOTO | FILE


The Covid-19 pandemic hit world economies hard, and in some countries it erased all earnings from the creative arts as theatres and live music venues shut down in strict national lockdowns. As the economies slowly started reopening last year, the scope of losses was laid bare.

In its latest annual global collections report, the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (Cisac) says the pandemic effects on the creative arts will be felt long into this year, possibly even until 2023.

The Global Collections Report 2021, says that worldwide, royalty collections for creators of music, audiovisual, art, drama and literary works fell by 9.9 per cent in 2020, with losses amounting to more than one billion euros. Total collections fell to 9.32 billion euros as lockdowns nearly halved earnings across the world.

“The decline was however partly mitigated by a rise in digital royalties, reflecting the sharp increase in audio and video streaming consumption worldwide,” says the report.

In East Africa, the situation was not any better.

Few live events


Although Tanzania never had lockdowns, what many countries around the world did meant that there were fewer live events. Those that happened were scaled down and had strict regulations, keeping the usual masses away.

Kenya and Rwanda opened cautiously, but live events were not well attended, with some entertainment venues going out of business and creative artists even seeking financial help from the public. Some financially stable entertainers in Kenya and Uganda moved their performances online.

Yusuf Mahmoud, the chief executive and festival director of the region’s top music festival Sauti za Busara said: “The full financial impact of Covid-19 on the African and global music sector may never be fully understood. The repercussions of the pandemic are nuanced and differ for each country. Without a doubt, restrictions on social gatherings and travel led to unprecedented losses for musicians and artists from across Africa and beyond.”

He added: “Among the new challenges is the scarcity of funding, travel complications, and expenses for health and safety procedures. Across most of Africa, the percentage of people vaccinated against Covid-19 remains small. In some countries, vaccinations administered in Africa are not even recognised, which has widened even further inequality gaps regarding freedom of movement.”

According to the Uganda Performing Right Society Annual Report 2020, royalty collections fell to Ush225 million ($63,636), a 66 per cent decline from Ush660 million ($186,424). However, the Uganda Performing Right Society registered a net membership growth of 65 per cent, while the music repertoire grew by 53 per cent.

Restrictions lifted

This week Uganda finally lifted the remaining restrictions and creative and entertainment sectors came back to life.

There are hopes that “the reopening of cultural spaces will offer a breath of fresh air to the public and creators alike. It will take several years for most creatives who survives the pandemic to fully recover. In spite of ever-changing challenges, we must adapt and remain creative to survive,” Mahmoud told The EastAfrican.

“Sauti za Busara festival provided a positive example in February 2021, showing that with government support, cultural events were able to continue physically, even in the context of Covid. Despite the many challenges, events can proceed responsibly, by investing in public information,” he added.

Others are optimistic it will pick up quickly given that Ugandans generally love entertainment.