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13 January 2008

High-level panel considers potential of creative economy for development

Creative industries have emerged as one of the world´s most dynamic economic sectors, offering vast opportunities for cultural, social and economic development. International trade in creative goods and services surged to US$445.2 billion in 2005 from US$234.8 billion in 1996, according to preliminary UNCTAD figures. Such trade grew at an unprecedented average rate of 8.7% a year from 2000-2005, the figures show.

This reflects the economic and cultural breadth of the creative industries, which span cultural heritage, the arts, media, creative services and design. Linking business, culture and technology, the creative economy holds potential for developing countries to transform untapped creative resources into growth.

Globalization and connectivity are benefiting the creative industries of developing and developed countries. Creative products from China -- which according to UNCTAD figures became the world´s leading exporter of creative goods in 2005 -- India´s movies and software, Mexico´s TV stations and the Republic of Korea´s digital animation products are among prominent examples of success. However, many developing countries are not yet able to harness their creative capacities for development, due to a combination of external and internal constraints.

These are some of the trends and themes to be discussed at a two-day meeting of the UNCTAD Secretary-General´s High-Level Panel on the Creative Economy and Industries for Development (14-15 January) in Geneva. Among speakers are Sampson Kwaku Boafo, Minister of Culture of Ghana; Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture of Jamaica; Dr. Aliyu Idi Hong, Minister of Culture and Tourism of Nigeria; and Yavor Milushev, Vice-Minister of Culture of Bulgaria. Speakers and participants also include experts from international organizations and members of the artistic community. In addition to presentations and debate, the meeting will feature the screening of two Nigerian-made films (see programme in annex).

The panel´s work is expected to assist governments in their deliberations at UNCTAD XII, the four-yearly ministerial meeting to be held 20-25 April in Accra, Ghana. As part of the effort to support growth of the creative economy in developing countries, UNCTAD XII will launch the Creative Africa initiative with a series of events showcasing African creative industries. These will include an exhibit of contemporary art, fashion shows by Anggy Haif and Alphadi, concerts by Femi Kuti and Youssou N´Dour and African dance.

Also at Accra, UNCTAD and the United Nations Development Programme will launch jointly a comprehensive multi-agency study: The Creative Economy Report -- 2007: The Challenge of Assessing the Creative Economy -- Towards Informed Policymaking.

A growing sector

While the concept of the creative economy is recent and still evolving, it reflects the idea that creative assets can generate economic growth, job creation and export earnings while at the same time promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development. The UNCTAD XI ministerial meeting in Sao Paolo in 2004 called on the international community to help developing countries "foster, protect and promote their creative industries."

Under this mandate, the UNCTAD secretariat is carrying out policy-oriented research and pioneering trade analysis, which places creative industries among the emerging and most dynamic sectors in world trade. In seeking to compare and quantify the growth of the creative economy, however, UNCTAD has faced a lack of reliable and comparable economic and social statistics. As a result, the figures cited in Creative Industries in the Trade and Development Agenda, a note by the UNCTAD secretariat for the high-level panel, mark a starting point for further statistical work.

UNCTAD´s definition of creative industries embraces activities ranging from traditional folk art, cultural festivities, books, paintings, music and performing arts to more technology-intensive sectors, such as design and the audiovisual industry, including film, television and radio. Also contained are service-oriented fields, such as architecture, advertising and new media products, such as digital animation and video-games.

Although developed countries continue to dominate the global market for creative products, exports of creative goods from developing countries increased sharply to US$136.2 billion in 2005 from US$55.9 billion in 1996. This mainly reflected the remarkable export performance of China, the world´s leading exporter of creative goods in 2005, as well as strong gains elsewhere in Asia. However, the picture was less positive in many other developing countries, particularly the least developed. Africa, for example, accounted for less than 1% of world trade in creative products in 2000-2005.

Italy was the top exporter of creative goods among developed countries, reflecting its competitive position in the field of design. In most developed countries, the creative economy is leading economic growth, employment and trade. In Europe, a recent study prepared for the European Commission shows that the creative economy is expanding12% faster than the overall economy and accounted for 4.7 million jobs in 2004. So-called creative cities are proliferating, particularly in Europe and North America, revitalizing socio-economic growth and generating employment in urban post-industrial areas.

Obstacles faced by developing countries

Despite the strong overall growth cited above, many developing countries are not yet able to harness their creative capacities for development. This reflects a combination of domestic policy weaknesses and obstacles at global level. Domestically, policies are needed to enhance the capacity of exportable creative goods and services.

At international level, obstacles include lack of access to markets and non-competitive business practices, particularly in the audiovisual and digital industries. The concentration of marketing channels and distribution networks in a few major markets, limited funds for creative industries from regional and multilateral creditors and technological exclusion jeopardize the competitiveness of creative products and services from developing countries.

A large part of creative revenues originates from copyrights, licences, and marketing and distribution. Too often, much of this revenue fails to reach creators in developing countries.

International scene

Multilateral processes such as the Doha Round under negotiation at the World Trade Organization, the development agenda being shaped at the World Intellectual Property Organization as well as the implementation of the UNESCO Convention on Cultural Diversity all have implications for the creative economy. Moreover, governments are increasingly seeking to shape policies regarding the creative economy at regional level.

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