The creative economy is one of the most rapidly growing sectors in the global economy, offering new
and high growth opportunities, especially for developing and emerging economies. It contributes to
sustainable development goals by generating income, exporting earnings, and creating jobs. Investing in
creative industries, particularly in music, film, content creation, visual arts and crafts, can drive
sustainable economic opportunities and improve livelihoods for local communities while expanding
business opportunities for SMEs.

According to the Kenya Copyright Board, Kenya’s creative industries generated KES 85.21 billion in 2013, representing 5.32 percent of the national GDP according to the . It has the capacity to contribute up to 10
percent of the national GDP by 2025, contributing to job creation and sustainable livelihoods of young
women and men across the country.

Unfortunately, not all is rosy in this lucrative industry. Exploitation from key players in the industry and
society at large makes it almost impossible for the creatives to achieve their maximum capability. If
nothing is done, Kenya’s multi-billion shilling creative industry may fail to meet its potential owing to the
challenges posed by the regulators inability to arrest runaway exploitation of players.

Here are the major forms of exploitation in the creative industry.

Gender Discrimination

In 2021, gender discrimination is still a significant problem in the industry. The creative sector is still a
battleground when it comes to gender equality. Sadly, stereotypes play an important role in gender

For instance, society believes that women have more chances to join the creative sector due to the fact that it is not labor intensive, not to mention they are not expected to earn as much money as men. Also that men tend to combine artwork with something else to make money as they are viewed as the primary breadwinners.

This couldn’t be further from the truth due to the fact that women today contribute equally, if not more, to household expenses. The creative industry is infested with gender-biased linguistic and mental constructs, such as breadwinner, male job / female job.

Women are still affected by gender stereotypes about leadership roles or even certain professions, resulting in segregation in certain activities. Gender stereotypes in relation to leadership help to explain, for example, why even after so many years, we still have so few female film directors and creative directors, among other prominent roles in the industry.

Women working in the creative industry also suffer from the same injustice that affects female professionals in other sectors of the economy. They face limited participation in decision-making processes, have fewer opportunities for continuous training, capacity building, and networking, less access to resources, and obviously significant wage differences. Wage inequality between men and women is more significant in this sector with women earning on average 67.8% of men’s salaries, as compared to 82.8% in other sectors.

Financial Exploitation

Creatives, especially in Africa, have always been, for the better part, faced with financial exploitation.
Again, this goes back to the society. Growing up, most parents encouraged their children to study hard
to be lawyers, doctors, engineers, among other paying jobs. If you accidentally said you wanted to
be an artist or musician, you would receive the whooping of your life and be left wondering if you were
adopted. This may sound funny now, but for a young mind, that was their entire world you are crashing in
seconds. Most parents then didn’t even know or even care to understand the creative industry.

According to them, if you are not working a blue-collar job, you haven’t made it in life. So, this mentality has been carried forward in major institutions and stakeholders who hire these creatives. Most of these clients don’t hold their end of the bargain when it comes to paying the creatives on time. The funny thing is that in as much as some of these corporates don’t value the work of creatives, they still hire them as they can’t do the work themselves. However, the issue of payment delays can be very frustrating, especially for beginners  who literally depend on the content they provide for their next meal and even rent.

Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation/harassment includes unwanted verbal comments, jokes and sexual gestures, demands for sexual favors as a condition of employment, requests for dates, and actions encompassing touching and coercive attempts to establish a sexual interaction.

Ivy*(not her real name) got an internship in one of the major media houses in the country. She was certain that she would become a news reporter, a dream she had had since she was a little girl. Unfortunately, she quickly realized it was not all black and white, frequent unwelcomed sexual comments from her boss only made things worse.

When asked why she didn’t report the harassment, she indicated that, she had noticed when women reported such incidences, they were not taken seriously. At times, the woman is even blamed on enabling the harassment due to how they dress.

Recently in an interview, Amina Abdi admitted the main reason she had to stop doing music was that if
she wanted her music to sell, she had to date DJs or music producers. This was a sacrifice she wasn’t ready to
make which led to her quitting. Unfortunately, many aspiring musicians don’t have many options due to their financial situation as such they end up giving in so as to ensure that they have a roof over their head.

On the other hand, men too are suffering in silence because they are expected to deal with their challenges without complaining. Many people believe that if the victims don’t ask for help, it means they enjoy non-
consensual sexual activity. Many men have reported incidences where they no longer felt they had their
job security not unless they flirted back or complied with their female bosses demands. Most of them indicated that when they shared their predicaments with their friends, they only laughed and told them to take it like a man.

In an industry where fresh and original ideas are the main stay, the psychological impact of sexual
harassment could severely affect an individuals performance at work. Although the data suggests that
women are sexually harassed more frequently than men, women, and men are also vulnerable. Anyone, no
matter how careful they are, can fall victim to sexual harassment.


Corruption can be termed as dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery. The creative economy on the continent has not only been hampered by inadequate investment into the sector but also high levels of graft. This vice can be seen when artists continually lose their earnings through misappropriation of royalties, diversion of funds earmarked for the sector, copyright fraud, piracy of intellectual work, and bribery. The existence of corruption in the arts, culture, and heritage sector, calls for refocused efforts, adoption of legal, institutional, and practical measures to sustainably stem graft in this nascent industry.

A good example of this is when some of the bodies tasked with the collection of royalties for musicians end up utilising the funds to line their pockets instead of transmitting the same to the artists. A recent audit by the Kenya Copyright Board (KECOBO) on the three organisations that collect royalties for artistes indicated that they had been implicated in copyright and royalty fraud. Apparently, the three Kenya Association of Music Producers (KAMP), Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) and Performers Rights Society of Kenya (PRISK) could not satisfactorily accounted for the funds meant for artistes. This theft means that artists are not able to earn from their hard work a situation which means that a good number of them live in abject poverty.


Most of the big fish in the industry use lack of knowledge and experience to exploit new and upcoming
artists and other creatives. Big names like Taylor Swift have been a victim a well when her then-manager
sold her masters for $160 million. Swift had signed her recording contract at the age of 15, and the deal she made with Big Machine gave them ownership of her master recordings, which entitled the company to
her albums revenue streams and control of how the music was used. This deal meant that her manager benefitted more from her work than she did a situation in which many new artists find themselves in.

Closer back home, more artists have come out to put to highlight the struggle they go through behind the
scenes. From being ripped off by people they trusted all in the name of a contract they signed without
proper representation. They have essentially become poor millionaires who get plenty of airtime and interviews in major media houses but have nothing to show for all their hard work.

The Kenyan creative industry has a grown at a tremendous rate and has the potential to be a big earner for both the creatives and the government. However, until the ills which bedevil it are dealt with it will not live to its full potential and will remain the source of anguish to the majority while only benefitting a select few. It is my hope and prayer that the powers that be will finally deal with these ills once and for all for the sake of future generations.