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With EU delegated funds, AFD financed projects in cultural and creative industries across East Africa in 2019. Three years later, we went to meet the beneficiaries.

They are based in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya. They work in fashion, interior design and media. Their activities may seem unrelated, but they have one thing in common: they are talented entrepreneurs with a genuine desire to have a positive impact on their communities. 

Finding financing is difficult however, especially from banks, and government investment in these sectors is still modest, which is why HEVA Fund and its partners stepped in. It's Africa’s first dedicated finance, business support and knowledge facility for creative industries.

AFD has provided €750,100 in EU delegated funds, which includes a grant for capacity building for HEVA and beneficiaries to build or improve their businesses in the cultural sector, as well as a loan of €40,000 to €50,000 for each project.

Interior décor meets fair trade

Jeannine Umutoniwase runs Azizi Life, an interior design company in Rwanda. Her role, as she defines it, is to "bring supply and demand together," to benefit communities: "Some Rwandan craftsmen do not set their prices well,” she says. “Sometimes they do not even cover their production costs! So we offer to buy their products from them at a fair price, which allows them to make a good living, and we sell them to a market that demands quality products.” 

And the impact has been immediate: "Every day, these artisans tell me that they can now pay their children's school fees, their health expenses or invest. The funding will allow us to build a dyeing laboratory, so that we can expand into new markets. And with the increase in demand, we will be able to embark even more artisans!”

Creating crucial content on diseases

Felix Byaruhanga is the head of Skyline Medias, a creative agency based in Uganda. For him, the Cultural and Creative Industries are a powerful development lever for the countries of the region: "First of all, we create jobs,” he says. “Skyline Media currently employs 15 people, a figure we want to double by 2024. In addition, we pay our taxes, which generates income for the government, and all our employees benefit from social security.”

The agency, which specialized in creating content during the Covid-19 pandemic, is also having a positive impact on communities: "We work on awareness projects, using our expertise in creating engaging content to educate people about non-communicable diseases. 

Original and ecological furniture 

The tour also takes us to meet Wamuyu Ndegwa, Founder and Creative Lead of Tira Studio, a custom furniture workshop in Nairobi, Kenya. "We take a sustainable approach to our furniture design,” says Ndegwa. “Firstly, we only choose wood sources that we can trace and that come from sustainably managed plantations. Secondly, we have a whole range of initiatives to avoid waste, such as recycling offcuts to make smaller objects, and we are thinking about a system for recovering used furniture. And of course, we make sure that we produce strong and durable furniture!”

Thanks to the funding, the company has been able to expand and buy a production plant outside the city. “We are in discussion with a technical high school next door to offer internships to students. When young people enter the labor market without experience, they find it very difficult to find a job. So the idea is that they can come and train with us!” 

Valuable support 

Eugene Mbugua is the head of Documentary & Reality TV Ltd, a Kenyan production studio employing 15 people and producing no fewer than 18 television programs per year - but it hasn’t been easy.

"We had difficulties in finding financing; banks do not want to lend to cultural industries, which they consider too volatile."

HEVA Fund has allowed the company to move forward. “This support enabled us to develop new types of activities and to diversify. At the same time, we received one month's support in developing our business model to strengthen the company's governance!"

The fund also finances awareness-raising and advocacy activities with both governments and the private sector to promote cultural and creative industries across the region.