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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Invest in creativity for a better Kenya

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reativity and innovation are the sources of boundless potential for progress. They drive growth and prosperity, create jobs and rises living standards. “Innovation is now as important as infrastructure, skills and markets,” says the World Economic Forum. “Innovation feeding the world,” announces the Global Innovation Index of 2017.

Creativity is the ability to generate new ideas, innovation - is to bring new ideas to market; there is no innovation without creativity.

Creativity and innovation start with skilled creative people, people who know how to apply their brainpower to generate new ideas. When global companies look to invest, they do not seek low-cost consistencies, instead they seek the economies with the most creative people who can turn ideas into solutions.

Creative people are the key competitive advantage for companies, economies and nations. Yet, employers have difficulty finding creative employees. In Africa, according to Business Council for Africa, 75% of CEOs say lack of ‘creative talent’ threatens their companies’ growth.

That is why developed and developing countries alike are investing in strengthening the creative skills of its people. The Kenyan government recently made creativity a ‘core competence’ of Basic Education. Admittedly, it may take years to implement the change, the years Kenya might not have.

Technology is changing the way we live and work much faster than we think. According to the 2016 WEF Human Capital Report, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, including Kenya, “have at most ten years before technology permanently closes the door on the strategies that develop the skills demanded by the 21st century”.

The Global Innovation Index of 2017 ranks Kenya the 80th out of 127 world economies. In ‘Human Capital’ indicator, Kenya is in the bottom ten countries. In ‘Research and Development’ and ‘Patent Filing’ indicators it is also well behind its peers. This means that Kenya lags in commercialisation capabilities and its commitment to innovation is low.

Kenya has work to do investing in people’s creativity, both at school and university level. Creativity investment should be the new Kenya’s ‘tradition’. There may be a few years before we see the results of the investment, but when we do they will present an entirely different return on preparing young generations for the jobs of tomorrow, driving opportunities for all.

The government must play the central role in this strategy. But for the strategy to be successful, the Kenyan business sector must play an active role in creativity-training of the current and future workforce. They cannot be the consumer of ‘ready-made’ human capital anymore.

If you are ready to invest in creativity who can help?

Creativity training programme, MASK, acclaimed by the Harvard University’s Global Education Innovation Initiative, and other institutions, has been implementing creativity-training in Kenya for years, www.mobileartschoolinkenya.org.

MASK’s unique selling point is that it teaches creativity ‘directly’ as a ‘subject’ in a structured way in informal after-school clubs. Led by facilitators trained to set up the right ‘creativity learning environment’, students learn ‘creative skills’, ‘creative character, and ‘practical steps of applying creativity in real life’.

MASK students become successful professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs, and come up with ideas that can be patented.

MASK also set up the creativity competition with prizes, the MASK Prize. In its sixth year, this successful programme ignites and celebrates the creativity of young Kenyans. Supported by The Star (Kenya), Mabati Rolling Mills and other visionary donors, it makes a real impact.

Invest in the creativity of Kenyans by partnering with MASK. Change your narrow perspective on creativity, and if you are a director of a company – make creativity-training part of your company’s CSR.

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