The rise and rise of East Africa’s creative economy

“African imaginations are worth investing in” is the rallying cry of Teesa Bahana, Director of 32° East Ugandan Arts Trust, as she campaigns for funds for her new Ugandan arts centre. She’s not alone in thinking so – Sotheby’s’ recent African contemporary art auction saw record-breaking sales from artists from Nigeria, Ethiopia, Cameroon and Senegal, according to  Quartz. What’s more, in a celebration of local cultural heritage, African collectors made up 70 per cent of those sales. 

There’s a sound business case to be made for backing the East African arts scene. The added value of a productive creative economy is well-documented – be it on tourism, technology, or social mobility. Albeit a few years out of datean Ernst & Young  2015 study indicated that cultural industries in Africa and in the Middle East are worth US$58 billion in revenue, contributing 1.1 per cent to regional GDP and employing 2.4 million people. Despite the setbacks of the Covid pandemic, those figures are likely to be on the increase – a British Council report‘Scoping the Creative Economy in East Africa’ cites “new digitally enabled business models which converge different sectors and practices through the development of new creative content, services or experiences, are flying out of countries at a rate few would have predicted just a few years ago.” 

An increasingly enabling policy, investment and regulatory environment is also helping East Africa’s creative sector. Despite well-documented tax policies on social and digital services, the bigger picture is positive. The British Council’s East Africa Arts Programme providesongoing grant, skills training and funding opportunities for art projects, while dedicated funds like Heva provide finance and business support for creative industries.  One such benefactor is talented Kenyan entrepreneur Bryan Ngatia, whose collective of Kenyan creatives – Too Early for Birds – tell Kenyan stories through art and film. He commends his British Council Cultural Heritage Seed Fund grant for providing the ability to offer his cast and crew healthy contracts and stable working conditions that set a precedence in the sector, enabling a whole community of theatre practitioners who won’t settle for exploitative agreements going forward. He adds, “The icing on the cake was that HEVA’s involvement went beyond financial support. We got business and structural guidance that shaped us better for survival in the future. “

The private sector is progressively more interested in the sector’s potential. Last month (April 2021) saw the launch of Birimian, the first operational investment company dedicated exclusively to African luxury and premium heritage brands. Delivered through a combination of mentoring, financial and operational support, Birimianis establishing an ecosystem designed to create value for African entrepreneurs and help independent labels become international brands.  In the same month, the East African Community (EAC) Leather Industry Network Platform launched, offering industry players a “reliable virtual space to connect, interact and transact business.” The trade in leather and leather products in the EAC has enormous potential and is growing at an annual average rate of 1.5 per cent. 

As the global economy begins to rebuild following the effects of the still-present, crippling pandemic, the creative industries look well-placed to support a return to economic growth. Not to mention helping us all to come to terms with the experience through essential artistic expression. 

Further Reading 

The following links support further investigation into East African cultural industries: 

Gong Wins 2021 Africa SABRE Awards

Gong has been named as one of the winners of this year’s Africa SABRE Awards, which celebrate superior achievement in branding, reputation, and engagement for its work with Dive In Nigeria.

Since inception in 2015, Gong has worked on delivery of the Dive In Festival , the insurance industry’s diversity and inclusion festival, which took place in a record 35 countries in 2020.

In a virtual awards ceremony run by PRovoke Media, Gong was recognised as the winner in two categories (Research and Planning and Public Education) and additionally received a certificate of excellence (in the Financial and Professional Services category) for its work in delivering this world-leading festival in Nigeria, alongside its African partners Phyllion & Partners Limited, Aon and Lloyd’s.

You can find out more about the Dive In Festival – which is running again from 21 – 23 September 2021 – visit

British Council appoints Gong to profile AGILE leadership programme for social entrepreneurs

Gong has been appointed by the British Council to help profile its AGILE social leadership programme, designed to help social entrepreneurs across Africa improve their business skills, networks and resources. Delivered in partnership with Clore Social Leadership as the ‘Discover Programme’, AGILE seeks to address gender imbalance in leadership and education through an engaging and broad-reaching course delivered remotely.

In addition to media relations, Gong has supported the British Council with social media strategy and direction across several African countries and will also produce promotional case study videos.

Dive In Nigeria


Building support for diversity and inclusion in the Nigerian insurance market

In 2020 Gong was asked to take on the event running of Dive In Nigeria to build support for diversity and inclusion in the Nigerian insurance market. Due to Covid-19, the event was held virtually, with over 260 people attending. We secured CNBC anchor Esther Awoniyi to chair the event and invited five business leaders from across the sector to discuss gender diversity in the Nigerian insurance market.

Working closely with our local partners Phyllion to action our strategy, generate press coverage and engage insurance professionals in Nigeria, we secured 33 pieces of coverage including five TV interviews. Google ads delivered 421,000 impressions and #DiveInNigeria was trending on Nigerian twitter feeds on the day of the event. A number of senior leaders from Nigerian insurance firms also took part in our curated social media campaign, taking to twitter to share their support.

“We selected Gong and their partner agency in Nigeria to work on this project because we loved the concept and approach they presented us with. Their experience of the market, knowledge of D&I and familiarity with the Dive In festival meant they were the obvious partners for the event. In terms of delivery, I couldn’t have asked for more. The event was well attended and proved to be a great discussion on gender diversity in the Nigerian insurance market. The coverage was exceptional, with five of our panellists featured on prime TV show interviews in advance of the event. We were really pleased with the result.”

Mary Alade, Chief Strategy Officer, Aon Reinsurance Solutions (sponsor of Dive In Nigeria)

British Council East Africa Arts


Strengthening international collaborations for east African creatives

Our brief was to strengthen awareness and increase links between 18 to 35-year-old creatives in East Africa and the UK, in celebration of East Africa Arts (EAA).

Despite the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic stalling the creative sector worldwide, we set about showcasing the efficacy of the British Council’s East Africa Arts programmes and the importance of the creative sector as a career path, through the lens of their direct beneficiaries.

These creative entrepreneurs had incredible stories to tell. To generate engagement and support international partnerships despite the challenges of the pandemic, we crystallised the narratives of their innovations into media-friendly, engaging pitches with which to generate media interest.

Key titles and podcasts in the UK and across East Africa picked up these stories, which included the adversity-transcending power of fashion for a group of female textile producers in Kenya and Ugandan entrepreneurs benefitting from the Creative Hubs Academy.  Publications such as the Evening Standard (UK: circulation 1,780,000) and The East African (circulation: 3,000,000) jointly promoted No Direct Flight – a festival of African film and storytelling streamed live from Nairobi during the period of engagement. The press coverage reached approximately 30 million people in both East African and UK media.

By developing a rigorous content programme for Instagram, we were able to provide a digital platform to encourage international partnerships at a time when physical international movement was no longer permitted. Using powerful video clips alongside the compelling entrepreneur stories, we successfully increased the British Council’s EAA’s Instagram following by 17 per cent.

Despite significant strategic setbacks as a result of Covid-19, the British Council’s EAA engagement programme gained momentum by celebrating creative entrepreneurship as a direct result of the activity secured.

Kipeto Energy


Brand refresh and reputation management services for renewable energy project

Kipeto, located in Kajiado county, is the second largest wind power project in Kenya. Following two years of construction, the project connected to the national grid in 2021 and once at full capacity will supply 100MW of clean, renewable energy as a significant contribution to Kenya’s Vision 2030 and Big Four Agenda.​

Gong has worked with the project team, and an extensive list of international stakeholders (and their corresponding PR agencies), since mid-2018, including a change of ownership ahead of the project’s financial close in December 2018.

We began by running messaging workshops with both the project and investor teams and then rebranded Kipeto Energy Plc (KEP) to create a fresh, new corporate identity reflecting the project’s international pedigree.

In addition to reputation management advisory services delivered throughout the construction period, Gong has supported KEP on media relations, announcing news of key milestones in major industry titles, local, regional and international press, to ensure the project’s developments reach core sector audiences.

DPO Group


Corporate profile raising in Kenya, across Africa, and beyond

DPO Group has developed the technology to allow businesses across Africa to process payments, both online and offline. Headquartered in Kenya and with a presence in 19 African countries, DPO works with businesses of all sizes, supporting the growth of small local businesses, as well as working with large corporations, such as Uber, and DHL.

Gong was tasked with supporting DPO in developing its corporate profile and raising awareness of its suite of products to businesses locally, regionally and internationally.

We supported DPO in developing its brand and corporate profile, writing corporate collateral, launching new business lines and products and announcing company milestones. As well as extensive local Kenyan media coverage, further coverage was secured in South Africa, Ghana, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, the UK (including the Financial Times), the US, China and France, amongst other countries.

With a modest investment we are delivering outsized results, including in top tier international titles such as Forbes and Quartz. The estimated reach of one single announcement was over 1.5 billion readers.

British Council – Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth


Shortlisted for 2020 Sabre Award

The economic and social benefits of cultural heritage aren’t hot topics for Kenya’s young population. But an increase in tourism leading to job creation is an important outcome for a country like Kenya, with a growing young population who need employment. This is the context for our PR campaign dubbed “Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth” by our client, The British Council, as part of its mandate to explore creative responses to global challenges.

Gong Kenya’s brief was to encourage a priority audience of 18 to 35-year-olds to want to learn about, protect, and value Kenya’s cultural heritage in order to engage and benefit from it more fully.

Our digital-first strategy, titled #CultureGrows, called on cultural organisations and creative enterprises to provide input into a long list of names in response to the question, “Who’s your Cultural Hero?”.

The nominees – each leaders in their respective fields that included film, fashion, food and art – starred in a specially commissioned photography exhibition and shared key messages on their social channels to communicate their place on the list.

Mashujaa Day provided the peg on which to announce the winners, who included chef Ali Mandhry, fashion designer Ann McCreath and film director Wanuri Kahiu. Media engagement around the event generated extensive local coverage.

This work was recognised by the PR industry’s most prestigious global awards, The Sabre Awards, for superior achievement in branding and reputation in the educational and cultural institutions category. Gong Kenya subsequently won the pitch to manage communications for the British Council’s East Africa Arts programme across the region.

“Gong showed great strategic insight into our challenge, thinking through the elements that make up cultural resonances and build national pride. They interpreted these into a campaign that generated authentic content and gained great traction through fresh, smart use of a solid format – in this case to find the most influential cultural icons in Kenya. The outcomes hit all of the KPIs and the content continues to inspire and delight our audiences in relevant social channels.”

Maureen Anzaye-Kubai, Project Manager, British Council East Africa Arts