CANEX at IATF2021 – the highlight of Africa’s creative and cultural calendar

CANEX at IATF 2021 will bring together the best and brightest of Africa’s creative sector with a diverse programme of performances, conversations and meetings.


Image : CANEX at IATF2021

This article is sponsored by IATF

The Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) is an initiative of Afreximbank designed to support the creative industries in Africa. 

The CANEX programme at IATF2021 has been curated to highlight the significance of the creative sector to African economies with a diverse set of programmes targeted at ‘building bridges within and out of Africa’. 

The programme includes five days of engaging performances and conversations showcasing the best that Africa has to offer along with a full-scale exhibition space, B2B meetings, deal rooms and networking opportunities that will culminate in a two-day high-level summit – The CANEX Summit at IATF2021.

This creative platform wishes to facilitate investments into the creative industry through education, trade, industrialisation, and provision of critical infrastructure to support the transformation of the African economy.

We spoke to Programme Coordinator Lara Utian-Preston to find out more about CANEX at IATF2021.

In a few words, tell us what you aim to achieve with the CANEX programme?

CANEX at IATF2021 is specifically programmed to connect people. After nearly two years of isolation and true devastation within the creative sector this event will really be an incredible opportunity for creatives to re-connect with each other, to connect to new audiences, potential investors, and to just reconnect with their own creative spirit.

The diversity of the programme in terms of geography, sector, and even levels of experience is intentional – a way to build bridges and bypass gatekeepers. An in-person gathering of this kind has the real opportunity to transform careers and to kick-start a new era for Africa’s creative sector.

Are there parts of the programme you’re particularly excited about?

The overall diversity of the programme is what is most exciting. In one event to be able to converse about film, animation and comics, music, fashion, the visual arts and to also be able to provide practical sessions such as access to finance, intellectual property, the importance of branding, etc – this is a truly unique programme.

Has the creative business been underestimated in terms of its value, both financial value and also soft power impact?

The creative and cultural industries around the world have been and continue to be undervalued. It starts at an education level – when school budgets are cut, the first things to go are music, art, drama. This continues into the industry, in part because creatives are themselves not taught the importance of the business side.

Every film, drama, and music school should have mandatory accounting and business courses as a requirement for graduation. We cannot have successful creatives dying in poverty due to their lack of understanding of the business and of their rights.

When you’re speaking to creative artists, and from a multi-disciplinarian perspective, what is the biggest thing holding back their progress?

I think it is this same lack of business understanding that holds back most creatives. They are afraid or intimated, or just are not interested in the business and financial sides of their work. However, it is so essential that all creatives understand the business side, and if they focus on it themselves then they must have people on their teams who can.

Creatives work from passion, but passion can only get you so far and can quickly disappear when the bills start mounting up. Having a support team around you as an artist, one that you can trust and that is truly knowledgeable can make all the difference between success and failure – talent is not always what will get you that success.

What more can we do to support the arts and to help this industry grow?

I suppose it’s important to know who “we” are. There are different roles for government, educators, donor organisations, banks and financial institutions and even consumers of creative work.  But if there is one thing that crosses these sectors it would be collaboration and cooperation. You cannot have creative sectors working in isolation and the creative sector needs to be integrated into the worlds of finance, government and policy, and education.

Only by working in synch, and by harmonising laws and policies across Africa, like this event and other initiatives from Afreximbank and the AU are trying to do, will African creatives be able to tap into the massive audiences and opportunities that Africa represents.

Lastly, you set up the Ladima foundation which helps women in the creatives. Can you tell us a little about this and what you aim to achieve?

The Ladima Foundation was started after I and my colleague Edima Otuokon saw first-hand how various embedded biases, elements of patriarchy and sexism, and systemic imbalances lead to exclusion of women at almost every level of the film value chain.

We realised that without intentional interventions aimed at professionally developing women’s skills, creating networks and opportunities targeted by and for women, this situation will not change.

To that end we have developed a number of initiatives such as the Ladima Film Academy, which provides professional training across seven disciplines, the A-List, a data base and social network community of over 2,000 women in film and TV across Africa, the Film Festival Network aimed at ensuring gender inclusion and equity at film festivals, and the Adiaha Award that is presented annually at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival for the Best Documentary by an African Woman.

You can find out more at

Lara Utian-Preston is Co-Founder and CEO of The Ladima Foundation and Director of Red Flag Creative Consultancy.

African Business

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