The leader of the UN Conference on Trade and Development has urged countries to support and grow the creative and cultural sectors and increase their contribution to the economy.
Rebeca Grynspan, secretary general of Unctad, highlighted the urgency to strengthen these sectors, promoting a more inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem and ensuring it is prepared for any challenges brought about by the era of digital transformation.
"This is the ideal moment to set an agenda for the future, for a future for the creative economy builds momentum towards a resilient and inclusive world. Many lives and many more livelihoods depend on us succeeding in this agenda," Ms Grynspan said at the opening of the World Conference on Creative Economy at Expo 2020 Dubai on Tuesday.
"While you cannot replace handicrafts, walking through artisan markets or listening to live music, we have seen that culture makes digital more human – and only a digital world that is human can lead to sustainable development."
The cultural and creative industries, while niche segments, contribute about 3 per cent to global gross domestic product, generating revenue of almost $2.5 trillion annually with exports of more than $250 billion, Unctad said. About 30 million people are employed by these industries, with almost half of them women.
The contribution of the cultural and creative industries to Dubai's GDP increased to 2.7 per cent in 2019, from 2.6 per cent in 2018, a study released this year by the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority showed.
During this period, the number of profitable institutions operating in those industries rose 17 per cent from 8,352 to 9,772. Job opportunities in these sectors grew 9.6 per cent to 75,998, from 69,341 while the number of micro, small and medium-sized companies in operation grew to 9,749 in 2019, representing 99 per cent of the total number of companies in the sector.
Dubai launched its Creative Economy Strategy in April, while the UAE's 10-year National Strategy for the Cultural and Creative Industries, the first in the Arab world, was unveiled last week.
Growing these industries will create a domino effect not only from within.
"Thriving [ecosystems] give them countries the chance and the opportunity for their creatives to get on to the global market and be successful," Sylvie Forbin, deputy director general for the copyright and industries sector at the World Intellectual Property Organisation, said at the WCCE.
"It's not only for big countries, like in the past. The sectors are growing and it gives chances for other countries. We have choices now and we need to reach these points for equal chances."
Clusters of talent growth
To achieve these goals, there is a need to develop clusters of growth within countries that should serve as a platform to support the creative and cultural sectors in an end-to-end manner.
"It should create a value chain – from ideation, production, reproduction, promotion, dissemination and distribution – with accessibility to data and digitalisation that allows participants to have full access to that value chain," Hala Badri, director general of Dubai Culture, said at the WCCE.
About 97 per cent of creatives in the emirate are entrepreneurs, a sign of how the industry plays a key role in the economy and its potential to contribute more, she said.
A strong leadership, an ambitious strategy, an agile legislation system, infrastructure and future-focused initiatives all contribute to attracting talent, which would be for naught if not for these attributes.
"It's not only about the talent, but how they can thrive and grow," Ms Badri said.
Andrea Dempster Chung, co-founder and executive director of the Kingston Cultural District in Jamaica, also urged countries to nurture their respective creative and cultural sectors to avoid a drain of talent.
"To be global creative city, there has to be a relationship that benefits the creators of the culture. You can't call yourself a global creative city if your creators are not doing well for themselves, families and communities, and immigrating to the UK or US to tap into their ecosystems so they can succeed," she said at the WCCE.
Simplifying processes is the most important aspect to consider when helping the creative and cultural industries thrive, Ms Badri said. Initiatives such as provision of an online trader licence within seven minutes – instead of visiting nine different entities – in Dubai make it easier for entrepreneurs to move faster.
Education, she said, is also vital, as well as access to and sustainability of finance sources. Most of the creative community are micro firms and SMEs, so programmes must be in place to support them in each step of their business journey.