The Tango Over Creative Arts Taxation – Why Government must hasten slowly

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I understand why the government thought it should tax the works of creative artiste, musicians, comedians, actors and allies in that space. The government has numerous promises to fulfil and there is no much money-so everything that moves must be chased to tax.

However, the creative industry itself is not well organised to understand why they should pay rents to the state except of course, those who are loosely connected to collect royalties from their works and get mega gigs to perform musically or make appearances in popular films. Then again, the methods deployed by the Ghana Revenue Authority to calculate the net worth of our creative artiste is dead wrong , just as the purported tax is supposed to be retrospective. You cannot base tax calculations on the number of followers artiste have on social media, just as it is wrong to assume a tax based on flashy photos shared on social media. So, when Martha Ankomah was allegedly slapped with a hefty tax based on a supposed net worth of $200,000, she was right to ask, ‘ if I was worth that amount, would I be in rented accommodation?’.

It is important to mention, that Ghanaian artiste are generally difficult to manage, as most lack the discipline to understand that their works can have value. Carlos Sakyi did a whole lot for them in that space but unfounded suspicisions led to the good guy leaving them to their fate. I want to believe Obuor as MUSIGHA President is having his fair share of the blame. I wonder though how it is MUSIGHA spent a whopping Ghc 2million on a study of the industry that frankly should cost about Ghc 400,000. There are splinter groups and it is my hope that the Creative Arts Council under the supervision of Mark Okraku Mantey will bring some sanity to the otherwise wonderful industry.

That said, earlier this year, IMANI Center for Policy and Education & The Tony Elumelu Foundation jointly researched the “The Creative Industry Space in Africa: Developing the Right Environment for African Creative Entrepreneurs”. The research work costs us less than Ghc 20,000 albeit it was mostly online and through telephone conversations.

Here is an Executive Summary for your consumption. We know what we must do for our creative artiste to flourish first before attempting to tax them.

The creative industry, over the years, has grown to become one of the major contributors to a country’s growth and development. While the global economy has benefitted from this industry, Africa has lagged behind, with a global market share of less than 1% in 2015. Considering the rich culture and talent that the African continent has, it is believed that there is great potential for its creative industry to flourish and positively impact the growth and development on the continent.

The report explores the creative industry in Africa through the analysis of primary data collected through an online survey. Results showed that the three main challenges facing the industry include poor infrastructure, weak intellectual property rights, and a poor business environment for creative entrepreneurs.

Quick Read:

● 18 African countries are represented in the data, with Nigeria having the highest number of participants.

● A majority of the respondents are male and also entrepreneurs whose businesses were in the early development and growth stages.

● The pattern of results points to poor infrastructure, weak intellectual property rights and difficulty in obtaining capital and funding as an entrepreneur, as some of the challenges that the creative industry faces.

● These findings are synonymous with those of existing literature that identified similar challenges as roadblocks to the effective development of the creative industry in Africa.

● Recommendations include the need to completely incorporate creative arts into curricula in African schools, provide quality training to teachers in this field as well as invest in infrastructure and technology that directly and positively affect the industry.

● Other recommendations include a call for the private sector to support creative entrepreneurs through directly providing grants to individuals and start-ups or, through providing funding towards training and workshops that will help to improve the business environment for entrepreneurs; for awareness and campaigns about intellectual property rights to be launched and for more attention to be paid towards the beneficial role that clusters and hubs can play in the industry.

Source: Franklin Cudjoe, back in Ghana.

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