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28 September 2021

Kenya - People, Culture and the Creative Scene


by German Design Museum Foundation

Akinyi E. Odongo, Creative Director of Akinyi Odongo KENYA™ and Chairperson of the Kenya Fashion Council (KFCO), presented the people, culture and creative industries in Kenya. The lecture was transcribed.
Presentation by Akinyi E. Odongo


“Kenya is considered a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Some of the better known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife rich grasslands.
Just like most of the African countries, Kenya has mostly been recognized for its fashion and fabric scene when it comes to the design world. Aside from which, it is also famed for its scenic landscapes, vast wildlife preserves and it holds some of the finest beaches in Africa, such as Mombasa and its historic center, that has contributed much to the musical and culinary heritage in the country.

We believe in the spirit of “Umoja”, togetherness, you're always supporting each other.

Kenyan people are multi-faced. They offer an array of languages from each tribal group, customs, art and music. By nature, even though with 42 different tribes and languages, Kenyans merge the community with the soul of the entire country. So, they have different tribal groups and believe in the spirit of “Umoja”, togetherness, you're always supporting each other.
Kenya has been recognized for making headlines because of its travel, talent and technology areas. Aside from which, Kenya is known to be one of the first African countries to put a ban on plastic bags. And while it may have had an impact on plastic-producing companies, it was also a step towards creating eco-friendly alternatives. Kenya has also been widely recognized for its running and sports culture.
Aside from culture, sports and tourism, Kenya has also earned its place in the tech world. New investment projects help to create more sustainable businesses in Kenya. Organizations are coming up ready to help the youth of Kenya with business plans and ideas to pitch their proposal and compete to win prizes that would help them start-up their own companies.
In the Kenyan creative scene and design, especially in construction, the majority of the creative youth is self-taught. 70 percent of the creatives didn't go to school, the most of them are self-taught. This is supported by the fact that 68 percent of the youth express a desire to pursue further skills through this establishment. This proves a creative gap in the creative education. The self-taught nature of the youth also indicates passion and proactivity in acquiring required skills.

New investment projects help to create more sustainable businesses in Kenya. Organizations are coming up ready to help the youth.

If we look at the architectural art in Kenya, most of it is changing. Despite of being heavily influenced by the modern and western world, some architectural projects are heavily influenced by the Kenyan culture and tradition. So, a lot of the hotels are using more of their olden designs. We can still have mud houses, but with a lot of technology inside. It's both modern and contemporary
Kenya provides uniqueness in such ways as the graffiti seen on matatus and public buses, where artists get to express themselves. Matatus are public transports in Kenya and commonly used by Kenyans. It is a form of art, an amazing growing culture and it's contributing to the gross domestic product of Kenya.
In addition, galleries are continuously coming up in spaces where artists are able to meet up, exhibit and sell their work to the willing public. Such galleries include the Cycle Art Gallery, which gives artists a chance to showcase their work and sell them to the interested viewers.
The Nest Collective is a multi-disciplinary arts collective, living and working in Nairobi. Founded in 2012, it creates works in film, music, fashion and visual arts. Through them, the International Inventories Program (IIP), an artistic, research and curatorial project that investigates Kenyan objects held in cultural institutions outside of Kenya, began in 2018 with the support of the Goethe-Institute. The intention and question of IIP is how to make objects, which currently reside in institutions within the global North, present again in contemporary Kenya.

There's a lot of culture in our country that needs to be exchanged and considered.

We work with museums across the world. And I think this is a great opportunity to check, how we'd want to deal with cultural objects that were taken from our country. Since Kenyans were dispossessed of objects of cultural and national importance during colonial period. So, there's a lot of culture in our country that needs to be exchanged and considered. The continent has had ongoing conversations to push for fair and true acknowledgement of the true impact of colonialism, which is central to our work in the black and African identities we embrace.
With regard to technology, I can say that digital tool acquisition and distribution have reduced the cost of production and increased access to customers. This is because creative intermediaries and gatekeepers have been bypassed, creating opportunities for creatives to access millions of customers and make direct sales. Technology in Kenya has really grown. Almost 90 percent of the citizens have got mobile phones and through the mobile phones there's mobile banking. Additionally. access to the internet and social media has created new marketing and distribution channels for creative products. We see this through such channels as Jumia Kenya, which was started in 2019 and has proven to be very helpful to a lot of customers and entrepreneurs.
Kenya has been named one of the top hubs of Sub-Saharan Africa, nicknamed after Silicon Savannah. This is mainly because of the success of the crisis mapping tool Ushahidi, mobile money service M-Pesa, and the tech incubator iHub.
Due to its high internet penetration rate, fast Internet speed, and use of English as its national language, Kenya is an attractive environment for digital entrepreneurs and investors.

Kenya has been named one of the top hubs of Sub-Saharan Africa, nicknamed after “Silicon Savannah”.

So, just to conclude in regard to technology and research, there is a study conducted by the International Development Research Center in partnership with Oxford Insights, determinded that Kenya is well equipped to utilize artificial intelligence technology solutions. Kenya employs some of the AI technology, including sexual reproductive health monitoring chatbots, while 78 percent of Kenya's largest corporations have integrated modern IT solution into business operations, only 20 to 40 percent of the nation's smaller businesses have done so. Kenya's early success in the tech enterprises encouraged the government to double down in support of its new industry. The government instituted Vision 2030, a strategy to construct the infrastructure backbone necessary for further IT development, putting plans underway to design and build a new city meant to serve as a national tech hub.
Although still in its early stages, Kenya's emerging technology sector has quickly grown into a lucrative slice of the national economic pie. These facts show that the country is innovative and has made great progress in improving the availability of technology to its citizens.”

We would like to thank Akinyi E. Odongo for her presentation!

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