KAMAU: Why anger against Uhuru’s Sh100m gift for artists is misplaced

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 7 Apr, 2020 13:55 | 2 mins read
State House Kenya
President Uhuru Kenyatta . PHOTO | PSCU
President Uhuru Kenyatta when issued order banning movement in and out of Nairobi on April 6, 2020 at State House, Nairobi. PHOTO | PSCU

A good number of people appear to have been angered by the Ksh100 million allocation to artists and it seems like it’s the only thing that people heard from President Uhuru Kenyatta's speech on Monday, April 6.

The impact of Covid-19 has left those in the arts and culture sectors facing an uncertain future because of reduced income.

We all know these guys have no regular income like most people. They mostly rely on gigs, shows and corporate events which are simply not happening at the moment.

We also know about their highly publicized problems with the Collective Management Organizations (CMOs) in terms of collection and unfair distribution of music royalties.

The shameless levels of piracy in this country means musicians end up getting nothing from their efforts.

I have seen people complaining about the timing but this is the worst time to be an artist in Kenya.

Nobody is visiting the art galleries, there are no special exhibitions, poetry events, entertainment events and all.

All TV and film productions have been put on hold because of coronavirus. What are the artists supposed to do?

In Britain, the Arts Council England allocated Ksh20.8 billion to help artists.

The Chair of the Council Sir Nicholas Serota said: "Covid-19 is having an impact globally, far beyond the cultural sector -- but our responsibility is to sustain our sector as best we can, so that artists and organisations can continue to nourish the imagination of people across the country, both during the crisis and in the period of recovery.”

Two weeks ago, President Kenyatta announced a raft of measures ranging from tax relief and reductions, social protection measures, suspension of CRB listing, payment of pending bills all aimed at addressing the impact of coronavirus on the economy and curbing the further spread of the virus in the country.

In the same speech, he ordered Treasury to appropriate 10 billion for the old and vulnerable in our society to cushion them from the effects on Covid-19 which is disproportionately cruel to people in this demographic.

On Monday, the President ordered the release of Ksh2 billion recovered from proceeds of corruption and the savings from travel budgets to be redirected towards fighting covid-19.

As people question why money was not allocated to medical professionals and equipment, remember an additional Ksh1 billion was released for the recruitment of more medical professionals which is currently ongoing (you must have seen the advert for medics to apply).

The President was previously criticized for ignoring people in the informal sector and the self-employed by only effecting measures that target salaried people, this move should be welcome by all.

This is a targeted intervention to cushion an important sector from shocks arising from Covid-19. This is the time for artists, let us support them.

Stay Home. Stay Safe.

Dr. Sam Kamau is a media and communications scholar and practitioner based at Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications with 12 years’ experience in academia.