According to a new UN study, there is huge potential in Africa's creative industries in terms of promoting economic growth and development. The study, entitled the Creative Economy Report 2008, is the first of its kind to investigate the opportunities for the developing world's creative industries. Undertaken by a number of UN bodies including the UNDP and Unctad, the study notes that despite efforts to diversify their economies, 86 of the world's 144 developing countries still depend on commodities for more than half their export earnings.
"In this era of transformation," the report states, "creativity and knowledge are fast becoming powerful means of fostering development gains. In this context, the interface among creativity, culture, economics and technology, as expressed in the ability to create and circulate intellectual capital, has the potential to generate income, jobs and export earnings while at the same time promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development. This is what the emerging creative economy has already begun to do as a leading component of economic growth, employment, trade, innovation and social cohesion in most advanced economies. The creative economy also seems to be a feasible option for developing countries."
The creative economies range from folk art, festivals, music, books, paintings and performing arts to more technology-intensive sub-sectors such as the film industry, broadcasting, digital animation and video games, and more service-oriented fields such as architectural and advertising services. All these activities are intensive in creative skills and can generate income through trade and intellectual property rights.
How much income the creative industries can generate is an open question, especially when media piracy remains such a difficult issue.
Speaking to New African, Aliyu Idi Hong, Nigeria's minister of culture and tourism explained that while his country's film and video industry had been extremely successful--with the undoubted popularity of Nigeria's TV soap series and so-called Nollywood films across Africa and around the world--his ministry found it very difficult to ascertain just how much the industry was worth.
In April the minister travelled to Accra with the National Troupe of Nigeria which performed Bori (a ritual dance of exorcism choreographed by Arnold Udoka) at the Unctad XII summit. Accompanying them was Nigerian film director Izu Ojukwu, whose latest acclaimed movie, White Water, was screened at the summit.
"One of the greatest challenges we have in the film and video sector is the issue of data collection. We do know that we are losing a lot of money through piracy. Nevertheless, over three million jobs are provided by Nigeria's film industry and the sector provides a great opportunity for our country," Hong explained.
The UN's Creative Economy Report is clear that the creative industries are among the most dynamic emerging sectors in world trade. According to Unctad figures, between 2000 and 2005 the trade in creative goods and services increased at an unprecedented average annual rate of 8.7%. World exports of creative products were valued at $424.4bn in 2005 as compared to $227.5bn in 1996. Creative services, in particular, enjoyed rapid export growth--8.8% annually between 1996 and 2005, and this trend is set to continue.
So how can Africa leverage the new opportunities that the creative industries are now offering? …