Nomkhita Mona | Creative industries spark growth


A column I wrote earlier this month referred to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by the UN and, in particular, how far we still needed to go as the African continent towards achieving these by 2030.
Research by Afro-barometer had indicated that Africa’s main priority among these goals was the provision of decent work and the economic growth that would result from it.
Now the UN has identified a sector it believes will contribute not only to this goal, but towards achieving several, if not all, its SDGs: the creative industry.
This might seem unusual; the creative arts are not widely known as a sector with abundant opportunities or wealth.
Nevertheless, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) has earmarked the creative industry as a valuable contributor to global trade.
In its recently published Creative Economy Outlook report, Unctad particularly highlights the industry’s resilience and its consistent growth in tough economic climates.
“Despite the difficult years during and post the 2008 financial crisis, the creative economy has been robust, demonstrating resilience and in some instances growth, indicating it is a sector with considerable potential for current and future investment,” the report states.
In fact, since 2002 the global market for creative goods grew from a $208-billion industry to a $509-billion industry by 2015 – growing consistently at an average rate of more than 7% each year.
This might not sound significant, but when compared to our country’s fledgling GDP growth, it paints a picture of a prosperous industry that has the potential to change our economic trajectory.
Globally, China has risen as the leader in the export of creative goods, but the report indicates that developing economies are performing better in general than their more developed counterparts.
The main commodities in this industry are design, film and fashion, with SA being commended for its performance in the fashion category.
SA’s creative goods exports rose to an impressive $599m by 2014, of which about $315m was earned through design goods – which includes fashion and interior design.
Unfortunately, in the same year the country’s creative goods imports stood at $1,8billion, leaving the industry with a large deficit.
To me, this is clear proof that the industry is not being valued and supported enough.
With more support for the industry at local and national level, its role-players would be enabled to deliver more products and services, and the expanding industry would have a lesser need to import similar products and services from elsewhere.
The cultural economy already accounted for an estimated 6.72% of all employment in SA by 2015, according to a study by the SA Cultural Observatory.
A significant part of this industry included the local film industry, which has a strong reputation in the international film space.
The NFVF 2017 Economic Impact report showed that the SA film industry had a direct impact of R4.4bn on economic production.
Besides the economic benefits, Unctad believes the creative industries are important at a social level as well, stating in its report:
“The creative economy can catalyse change, and build more inclusive, connected and collaborative societies.
“There is a wide basket of existing creative economy activities which can be expanded and developed, and the creative economy is also a viable avenue for economic diversification strategies.
“Trade in creative goods and services is a powerful, growing economic force.
“Its contribution to GDP and share of global trade is only likely to increase as it intersects with the digital and sharing economy, e-commerce and the many opportunities emerging in these spaces.”
It is also an industry capable of assisting in the growth of other industries.
Think of the Ironman 70.3 World Championship we hosted in the city in 2018, and the millions of viewers who could watch from across the world because of those who filmed and streamed the event online.
Our city will no doubt experience the tourism benefits of this event, as it enabled us to show our beautiful metro to the world.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber has identified several key sectors we believe will be crucial to sustainable development in the Bay and beyond, of which the creative industry is one.
Through our task teams and their various initiatives, we will seek to empower various local creative companies to expand their businesses.
Our SME task team offers support to entrepreneurs in all sectors, including the creative industry, and provides opportunities to learn new skills and network with larger companies.
The work done by our electricity and energy, and water task teams is to the benefit of all sectors, as reliable and adequate infrastructure is crucial to their business operations.
Our metro collaboration task team is aimed at engaging with the metro leadership on an ongoing basis to discuss various issues facing business and crafting a way forward.
We will represent the creative industry in these meetings as we represent other sectors as well.
Finally, our new industry 4.0 task team will assist creative companies in preparing for the digital shift – particularly as this industry will be among the leaders in the move to the digital future.
If we are to make the most of the opportunities for economic growth offered by the creative industry, we must appreciate the role this industry plays in our country’s future and support the local industry in any way we can.
It is up to each of us to empower our metro’s creatives, so that they may lead us to a sustainable economic future...

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