UNESCO-CISAC ResiliArt debate: in Africa, copyright in the digital world is key for the post-COVID creative sector

International MUSIC - 19 Oct 2020

The creative sector in Africa is being hit hard by the pandemic, highlighting the need for strong rights protection for creators and showing the opportunities presented by the explosion of digital channels.  These were the dominant themes of the third virtual ResiliArt debate organised by UNESCO and CISAC on September 30. The debate was organised within the framework of the Africa Copyright and Collective Management day and rallied an audience from around the world.

The debate brought together African creators and policymakers and focused on measures to strengthen and ensure the sustainability of the continent’s copyright ecosystem as it struggles to survive the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. CISAC Vice-President, Yvonne Chaka Chaka led calls for stronger protection of creators as COVID-19 accelerates the region’s transition to digital.

The ResiliArt debate was launched in April by UNESCO and CISAC to bring to light the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the cultural and creative sector, help shape targeted policies and solutions by governments and support societies’ lobbying efforts at the national level. Over 160 ResiliArt debates have been organised in 65 countries. 30% of these debates have taken place in Africa.

The debate

Panellists included:

H.E. Abraão Vicente, Minister of Arts and Creative Industries Cape Verde

Vusumuzi Mkhize, Director General of the South African Departmental of Sports, Arts and Culture

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, singer-songwriter, and Vice-President of CISAC 

Eino-John Max, President of the CISAC African Committee and CEO of the Namibian Society of Composer and Authors of Music (NASCAM)

Kenny Saint Brown, Nigerian music author and composer 

Yvan Buravan, Rwandan author and music composer and RF1 Prix Decouverte winner 2018

The debate was moderated by Nothando Migogo, an expert in copyright collective management and Culture and Creative Industries. Björn Ulvaeus, President of CISAC and Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture, gave opening remarks.

Björn Ulvaeus, drew attention to the resilience, entrepreneurship and solidarity of the creative industry which has kept the sector afloat. Creators and creative industries depend on copyright to survive. Policy makers in Africa and elsewhere need to create copyright friendly policies that promote fair remuneration of creators and ensure their survival. The CISAC President said:  "Understanding the value of culture & the deep injustices facing creators in getting fairly remunerated, has always been important. Today, COVID-19 has exacerbated those injustices, it is a critical issue"

Ernesto Ottone highlighted the Impact of social distancing and lockdown measures in Africa on copyright collections. The drop in ticket sales and advertising revenues have significantly reduced African creators’ income and pose an even bigger threat to their economic future. African CMOs have worked to ensure the sector remains resilient and the UNESCO-CISAC ResiliArt debate offers them, and the African creative community as a whole, a platform that guarantees their voices are heard when copyright regulations are revised to ensure that they remain relevant. UNESCO is also committed to improving the rights and status of African artists and to “engaging its member states to strengthen the copyright ecosystem especially taking into account the rise of digital technologies and their impact on the creative sector.”

Effects of the pandemic

Panellists reported on the current dire situation of the African creative industry caused by the pandemic. Cancellation of events, live concerts and closing of cinemas for example, have significantly reduced the revenue of African creators. Figures shared by Nothando Migogo show an estimated 40-90% loss in copyright collections in Africa, depending on the country. African CMOs deprived of resources have had to face bankruptcy, laying-off of staffs and in some cases, cessation of operations.  Some African governments have proactively responded to mitigate the impact of the crisis through provision of emergency funds, collaborative actions with organisations, support of CMOs in ensuring the advancement of royalties, etc.

Despite these efforts, the crisis has exposed and amplified the vulnerabilities of the African creative industry. From lack of adequate infrastructure to unfavourable legislation, poor awareness of copyright and the refusal of users to pay royalties.  As users of creative works struggle to rebuild their businesses, the obligation to pay royalties to CMOs is seen, in some African countries, as a hindrance to economic recovery.

Digital Transition

A successful digital transition of African creators is viewed as a priority that policymakers must act on. The digital environment offers great opportunities for the continent’s creative sector. As African creators gain access to a wider international audience via digital channels, it is vital they receive fair digital revenues.

Stronger copyright protection for creators

On the legislative level, Governments need to tackle gaps in the copyright and licensing landscape to ensure they respond to the demands of the post COVID-19 era. Policies that regulate big tech companies should encourage digital migration of creators and empower the digital collecting operations of CMOs.

Panellists called for solidarity amongst African nations, CMOs and Ministers to ensure that the African creative sector has a strong united voice, a shared vision and common goals across the continent, and in the drafting of copyright policies and directives in the region.



Björn Ulvaeus President of CISAC

“To build a long path out of this crisis, we have to turn to the policy makers. The decision makers in government who can help ensure creators and creative industries have a fair environment to work in. And that is where the copyright and the topic of this discussion comes in.”

Yvonne Chaka Chaka, singer-songwriter, and Vice-President of CISAC - on cooperation with government

“"The creative industry has been hard hit with the loss of income streams that creators depend on, and creators are not able to make ends meet. I want to urge governments and everyone to make sure that we find practical and inspirational solutions. To make sure that the creative sector and the creators are not turned into beggars. We need to start walking the talk and working together.”

H.E. Abraão Vicente, Minister of Arts and Creative Industries Cape Verde -on the need for regional cooperation

“Copyright payment is not an option.  That is the essential change we must make in the African continent. Our goal as a country (Cabo Verde) is to make copyright friendly festivals, TV shows, radios, cities, and country but we cannot do this job alone. The African Union, ECOWAS, CISAC and WIPO must invest in lobbying policymakers to change laws and empower societies through copyright educational programs for people to understand that copyright payment is not an option.”

Vusumuzi MkhizeDirector General of the South African Departmental of Sports, Arts and Culture - on the digital migration of African creators

“Digital migration is not a choice and we must take advantage of it. However, it is crucial that governments create an enabling environment, in terms of the infrastructure that is required and of legislative framework for copyright.”

Eino-John MaxPresident of the CISAC African Committee and CEO of NASCAM - on the need for a strong legal environment

“It is really a hard time for us to move forward in relation to the revision and implementation of our current copyright laws in Namibia and all of Africa. It will be very good for Africa to have a common legal instrument that guides us in protecting the rights of those we (CMOs) are representing. We need to work alongside and guide the policy makers and law drafters to ensure they are not manipulated by users.”

Kenny Saint Brown, Nigerian music author and composer – on the resilience of female creators during the pandemic

“The COVID-19 crisis has impacted on both male and female creators. However, female creators who are also family minders in their homes, have been forced to prioritize the survival of their families at the expense of their creative work. We had to become more resourceful and creative and use the digital platform to stay connected with fans.”

Yvan Buravan Rwandan author and music composer and RF1 Prix Decouverte winner 2018 - on digital royalties

“The regulatory framework of governments explicitly explains to someone starting a business their obligation to pay taxes.  In the same way, laws should inform people of their obligation to pay royalties for the usage of creative works. When governments take author’s rights seriously, digital platforms will take notice.”




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