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Saturday, August 19, 2017

How to look at art: Invest in creativity of young Kenyans: Mask Prize seeks partners

Danielle Mwangi receives a prize from Mabati Rolling Mills EA coils marketing manager David Kimathi
Danielle Mwangi receives a prize from Mabati Rolling Mills EA coils marketing manager David Kimathi

The MASK Prize, a creativity competition for young people in Africa, has just celebrated its fifth year. Encouraging resourcefulness, inventiveness and outside-box problem-solving, the MASK Prize challenges young Africans to rethink attitudes such as ‘this is how we always do things’ and replace them with ‘how do we change things to achieve improvement or a breakthrough?'

Partnering with the Radio Africa Group and national newspaper the Star, The MASK Prize has reached thousands of young people in East and South Africa. The programme hopes to increase its prizes and reach even more young people. For this, the MASK Prize seeks partners: companies, grant-making bodies, galleries and individual supporters.

Why creativity? Creativity is the foundation of our success, and a key strategy for up-skilling the workforce. The ways we live and work undergo deep transformational changes. Old jobs get phased out, while the whole new industries emerge. In this age, ‘creativity and innovation’ the ability to generate original ideas and turn them into solutions is what drives growth and prosperity. "Innovation feeds the world" announces the 2017 Global Innovation Index. “Survival in the 21st century will be difficult and without creativity, it is not possible," stresses leading African industrialist Manu Chandaria.

Creativity is now a top skill demanded by employers. The creative workforce is the main competitive advantage of companies, economies and nations. ‘Creative employees know how to think outside the paradigm, to kick-start a new idea, to get a job done better’, says the GlaxoSmithKline CEO. However, education for creativity has been limited in many countries. Employers report difficulties in recruiting creative workforce. Up to 75 per cent of Africa-based CEOs say the ‘creative talent’ shortage threatens their companies' growth.

Recently, the Kenya government made creativity a ‘core competence’ of its school curriculum objective. Envisaging to build a ‘newly industrial country’ by 2030, the investment in the creativity of its workforce is essential to the success of the vision. It presents the entirely different return on preparing young generations for the jobs of tomorrow. The need for creativity education is pressing. According to the 2016 World Economic Forum Human Capital Report, the countries of sub-Saharan Africa "have at most 10 years before technology permanently closes the door on the strategies that develop the skills demanded by the 21st century". The Kenyan business sector should play a much more active role in advancing the creativity of the next generations. Engaging with schools, it should align its priorities and efforts and propose creativity-training benchmarks.

The MASK Prize was established by a UK charity, MASK. Pioneering education for creativity in East Africa for 10 years, MASK has developed effective creativity-training programmes that improve young people’s employability rates, entrepreneurial skills and leadership through creativity. The Kenyan government has turned to MASK to help them fulfil their creativity education objective. It sees the MASK Prize as an effective way to make a nationwide impact.

The MASK Prize movement is growing. The programme shows young people "the joys of creativity", says its donor Alan Rivers. Young people under 25 enter their creative works expressed in art, music and entrepreneurial ideas. Winners receive prizes at the Awarding Ceremony in Nairobi, and the works are shown at leading cultural centres around the world.

“The MASK Prize motivates us to be more creative and makes us better for it," say the participants. “We are proud to support the creativity of our children to help them succeed in school and later in professional lives," say their parents.

If you would like to partner with the MASK Prize, please get in touch with MASK on [email protected]

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