Shatta Wale
Shatta Wale

Shatta-WaleAlthough most African countries have long had collecting agencies, these government bodies have largely failed to collect and distribute royalties to songwriters and performers.

For years, musicians, film-makers and producers have complained bitterly of the failings of the Copyright Society of Ghana, the Nigerian Copyright Commission, the Senegalese Copyright Association and the rest.

In the USA, successful music publishers like Ralph Peer?s company set up associations to collect royalties.

Such private initiatives proved more efficient than government offices and more accountable to those who created them. This can be copied with the right legal framework.

There are small signs of progress. In Ghana, Section 49 of the 2005 Copyright Act theoretically allows publishers and composers to form private royalty-collecting organisations.

Tieku?s Kampsite is the first instance of an entrepreneur seizing that opportunity but rampant piracy remains a major problem.

The 2005 Act has some good provisions but has still not been implemented.

Without better enforcement, piracy will frustrate any improvements by entrepreneurs like Tieku.

Africa?s music sector could and should have a bright future. One pleasing twist is that Kampsite has entered a partnership with Peermusic, the music publisher founded by Ralph Peer: Ralph Peer II sees the opportunity in West Africa that his father saw in Tennessee.

As Nashville shows, it takes more than a rich cultural heritage to improve the fortunes of musicians and the wider economy.

Getting the laws right, enforcing them and letting entrepreneurs and musicians do the rest is what worked for Nashville and it can work for Africans.

Schultz is an Associate Professor, Southern Illinois University School of Law, USA.

van Gelder works at International Policy Network, a London-based development think-tank, while Cudjoe is executive director of the Ghanaian think-tank IMANI Centre for Policy & Education.

By Franklin Cudjoe, Mark Schultz and Alec van Gelder

Story was first published by with title “Music, money and growth” on Wednesday, June 24 2009


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