Accra, 20 April 2008 — The vast cultural and artistic heritage of the developing world – such activities as music-making, painting, dance, handicrafts and fashion – is often considered priceless . . . but it is also a major opportunity for economic growth, job creation and social inclusion.
Worldwide the so-called creative economy, driven by a rapidly growing multi-billion-dollar business generated by creative industries, is a field in which developing nations have enormous potential.
The twelfth UNCTAD quadrennial conference, scheduled for 20-25 April in Accra, Ghana, will feature the launching of the first multi-agency study of the world´s creative economy, and – in addition to meetings centred around the theme of "addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalization for development" – will be enlivened by a weeklong "Creative Africa" festival highlighting the continent´s contemporary art, music, dance and fashion.
There is a great deal of money and future development potential in play. As the Creative Economy Report contends, governments that act astutely can help domestic producers of creative "content" command an increasing share of a global market that has been growing at more than 8% a year since 2000, and which expanded in total terms from US$227.4 billion in 1996 to $424.4 billion in 2005. During that period, the portion of developing country products rose from 29% of world creative exports to 41%, reaching US$136.2 billion in 2005. China is now the world leader in exports of creative goods, followed by Italy and the United States. India, Thailand and Mexico are also among the world´s top 20 exporters.
Trade in creative economy products is booming because of increasing world demand for goods and services that link cultural heritage, the arts, media, creative services and design to modern business, culture and technology. There is room for everyone, but the challenges are to help increase the creative capacities of most developing countries and lower external and internal constraints.
The report, which will be formally launched when UNCTAD XII convenes on 20 April, is a joint effort with four other international agencies: the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Special Unit for South-South Cooperation; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); and the International Trade Centre (ITC).
It attempts to give a comprehensive view of fast-expanding global trade in goods and services ranging from traditional arts and crafts to books, newspapers, paintings, music and performing arts; technology-driven products such as film, design, audiovisual works, television, and radio; and "new media" products such as digital animation and videogames. Overall, creative goods made up 3.8% of total global trade in 2005. Rising affluence – resulting in more demand for entertainment – and technological progress that eases the diffusion of creative products indicate that the sector should continue to thrive and expand.
The report says developing countries in particular should find the creative industries fertile territory for growth. Art crafts currently account for 60% of the value of their creative exports. Design and new media products – especially as the Internet makes geography irrelevant for the delivery of many such goods – have great potential for nations in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The study adds that figures compiled for the more technology-intensive and services-oriented creative industries probably underestimate their current value. Also of great potential are further marketing and sales related to cultural celebrations and festivals.
Most developing countries, however, lack the know-how, investment, and business and marketing skills needed to generate diversified and competitive creative goods and services for trade and development gains. They also need to bolster small and micro creative enterprises capable of alleviating poverty in small communities and rural areas.
Exports from developing countries are also hindered because regional and multilateral agencies are wary of lending to creative industries in developing countries. Moreover, marketing channels and distribution networks are concentrated in a handful of large conglomerates in advanced countries. This has resulted in an ironic situation in which developing nations import not only foreign music but recordings of domestic music. The increasing downloading of music from the Internet may now be transforming this picture, the study adds.
The Creative Africa festival that will run contemporaneously with UNCTAD XII is intended to draw attention to the continent´s enormous and largely untapped potential in this sector. It will pave the way for concrete deliverables during and after the conference, as a tool to promote both government and business interests. Despite its enormous talent and artistic patrimony, Africa accounted for less than 1% of global creative exports for the period 2000-2005. Government officials and industry experts can be expected to discuss how economic and trade policies can reverse that situation.
Among the Creative Africa events planned for the week are an exhibit of Ghanaian gold art works and a fashion show featuring the designs of Anggy Haif (Cameroon) and Alphadi (Niger). In addition, there will be concerts by Femi Kuti as well as Ghanaian bands and dance presentations by the Ghana Dance Ensemble and the Nigerian National Ballet.