Africa’s Creative Industries: Growing But Challenged

Africa’s Creative Industries: Growing But Challenged

Lagging behind the rest of the world, Africa’s creative and cultural export economy is worth $2.3 billion – less than 1 percent of the global total, according to a BizCommunity report.

With 48 percent of the sub-Saharan population living on $1.25 a day or less, African countries lag far behind in many development rankings. Many policymakers consider arts and culture to be expendable, middle-class luxuries and this inevitably impacts the creative economy, the report said.

While there is no shortage of artistic talent on the continent, creative and cultural producers face formidable challenges when it comes to transforming opportunities into a sustainable and thriving creative economy.

But there are some encouraging signs of growth. The creative industries have been expanding in most economies. The Creative Economy Report published by the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development said Africa’s creative economy had grown by 13.9 percent. By comparison, North and Central America showed the least growth, at 4.3 percent. The total value of world exports of creative goods reached $441 billion in 2011, even when global markets were in recession.

China dominates exports from the developing countries. It exports a third of the world’s creative and cultural goods. In the context of China’s dominance, it is clear that African cultural and creative producers have a long journey ahead to claim a definitive place in the global creative economy.

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At the African Creative Economy Conference held Oct. 6-9 in Cape Town, 400 delegates from more than 40 countries in Africa and beyond discussed factors that hinder economic development for Africa’s creative entrepreneurs.

Inadequate infrastructure; unreliable transport networks; high costs for bureaucratic processes like obtaining visas; unfavorable export trade agreements for raw materials; and competition from brands expanding into emerging markets are all considered factors that hinder economic development for Africa’s creative entrepreneurs, the report said.

The creative industries also face intangible obstacles such as a lack of clarity and consensus on what arts and culture actually mean. And when children are hungry, many policymakers consider arts and culture to be expendable, middle-class luxuries.

Hosted by Arterial Network and implemented by the Cape Craft and Design, the African Creative Economy Conference set out to address some of these issues. Previous conferences held in Nairobi in 2011 and Dakar in 2012 helped create markets and raise the profile of Africa’s artistic and cultural industries regionally and internationally, the report said.

The aim of this year’s conference was to focus attention on how the continent’s creative industries can play a meaningful role in accelerating Africa’s economic growth, while building democracy and human rights.

“The first African Creative Economy Conference in Nairobi was about defining what the creative economy actually is. Our second conference in Dakar focused on the people who make the creative industries work. In Cape Town, we have focused on why the industries exist. Now, it is time to go out there and transform words into action,” said Korkor Amarteifio, chairperson.