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SAMRO A PAN AFRICAN FORCE (article first published : 2008-08-18)

The Southern African Music Rights Organisation (SAMRO), home to some of the greatest names in African music, rolled-out its newly designed African Collective Administration Development Strategy extending its reach even further across Africa.

SAMRO is the leading collecting society in the African continent. It grants licences on behalf of composers and publishers of music for the use of musical works in broadcasts, performance in public, transmission through a diffusion service as well as when music is recorded or reproduced (mechanical rights). SAMRO has recently been accredited by the Copyright and Intellectual Property Registration Office (CIPRO) to administer the Public Playing Rights (Needletime) on behalf of performers.

With a total membership in excess of 16,000, of which close to 7,000 are composers whose music is actively used commercially and have assigned their rights to SAMRO, SAMRO is a significant contributor to the music economy. It has also played a significant role in the establishment of industry bodies such as Moshito Music Industry Exhibition and Conference, the South African Music Export Council as the Association of Independent Record Labels (AIRCO).

Flying the flag for the protection of composer’s rights in Africa, SAMRO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Music Copyright Society of Kenya (MCSK) last week in a partnership that will enhance the growth of copyright development on the continent.

In a ceremony that was attended by dignitaries from MCSK, the Kenyan Copyright Office, senior officials of the departments of Culture and Information as well as over 150 leading musicians and artists in Nairobi, the Chief Executive of SAMRO, Nicholas Motsatse, and the chairman of the MCSK, Habel Kifoto, signed and exchanged contracts.

According to Maurice Okoth, General Manager of MCSK: ”The entire Management team and Board of Directors are extremely excited about the agreement reached between MCSK and SAMRO. We recognise that to be able to excel in the industry, the professional guidance and assistance received from an established organization like SAMRO, would help MCSK develop along the same professional lines.”

Commenting on the significance of this agreement to Kenyan composers, Kifoto said, “This is an important step in a series of steps that MCSK’s Board of Directors took in restoring the organisation after it experienced challenges in its leadership and management.” He elaborated: “Over the last eighteen months we have been hard at work with the help of a number of international organisations to revive effective administration of authors’ rights in Kenya.”

South African music is popular in Kenya but little in the way of royalties has historically made its way back to South African music composers and music publishers. “This situation will soon be a matter of the past as SAMRO will work closely with MCSK to build the capacity and competencies required,” said Motsatse. He further said: “We have agreed on specific focus areas and we believe that we should see results in the medium term. What is even more encouraging is the level of professionalism and commitment from MCSK’s management and board of directors. This has been evident to us over the last four months since we started discussions with MCSK”

Under the memorandum, SAMRO will provide assistance that will enable MCSK to fully protect and enforce the rights under its administration in Kenya. The memorandum came into force on August 1 2008 although it was only signed on August 8. Under the terms of the agreement, SAMRO will provide a suite of services to MCSK including hardware and software installations and support; competency training and exposure; coaching for middle and senior management and assistance with licensing negotiations.

While a consequence of a new strategic approach, the MOU signed by SAMRO with MCSK is not the first of SAMRO’s extensive involvement in the development of collecting societies in Africa. In Botswana SAMRO is involved together with the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC), an international body to which all collecting societies throughout the world affiliate, in assisting with the establishment of a new collecting society. The organisation has also been involved with the installation of new custom-built software in Mauritius and Namibia. This is over and above its active involvement as the Executive Committee member of CISAC’s African Committee.

“We have set targets in terms of realising income from the African continent, which at the moment accounts for less than one percent of SAMRO’s revenue. We believe there is growth potential but it will take hard work and smart partnerships like the one we have entered into with MCSK,” said Leon van Wyk, General Manager: International Affairs at SAMRO.

Kenya, despite recent political upheavals, is one of the more stable and growing economies in the continent. With a GDP estimated by the Central Intelligence Agency’s world report to be at US$58,8 billion and growing at a rate of more than six percent per annum, it is evident that there is a need to put in place effective copyright protection mechanisms. The key to this is well run collective management of authors’ rights. Most visitors to Kenya find that the Kenyan ‘night life’ is more vibrant than in many countries throughout the continent. This, coupled with four private TV broadcasting stations, a public broadcaster and not less than eighty radio stations covering a population of some 38 million people, is an important indicator of the extent music is commercially used in Kenya.




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