Creative industries are the heartbeat of our economy
Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

Creative people are the heart, mind, and soul of any nation and they seem to attract others to their artistic enclaves wherever they convene. Paris is the postcard-perfect abode for creatives of all nature. Indeed, this unique city is brimming with the nostalgic imprints of the many artistic and literary figures of bygone eras and each of its distinct neighbourhoods has lots to boast on that front.

Take, for example, the Place du Tertre, which is a snug artists’ square on the hilltop in Montmartre and once the home of Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Henri Matisse. You also have the classy Saint-Germain-des-Pres, which was once the centre of Paris’ literary and artistic life and home to eclectic bookshops, art galleries, antique shops, the prestigious school of fine arts, and historic cafes which hosted Ernest Hemingway, Simone de Beauvoir, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Move along to the Opera neighbourhood and be transported into the Belle Epoque era, with its grand Opera Garnier, majestic architecture, and a number of historic theatres. Paris is truly a world-class example of how the creative industries can deliver valuable economic, cultural and social contributions.

Diverse mix of sectors

The ‘creative industries’ are increasingly becoming essential drivers of both economic growth and employment in many countries. These industries span a diverse mix of sectors including advertising, architecture, the arts and antiques market, crafts, design, designer fashion, film, interactive leisure software, music, performing arts, publishing, software, television and radio. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco), the creative industries are “one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy and a highly transformative one in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings”.

Think about it: we consume creative goods each day; from reading books to watching films, buying fashion items, furnishing our homes and playing video games. It is no wonder then that the global market for creative goods is so high that it more than doubled in value from $208 billion (Dh764 billion) in 2002 to $509 billion in 2015.

Creative industries contribute to economic growth, employment, tourism and investment. Beyond that, creative goods contribute to community pride, cultural identity and individual well-being.

- Sara Al Mulla

In the United States alone, the creative industries contribute more than $800 billion a year to the economy, or more than 4 per cent of GDP (more than the agriculture, construction and transportation sectors). The creative industries have also been growing much faster than the economy as a whole. From 2014 to 2016, the creative industries grew on average 4.2 per cent every year, compared to a 2.2 per cent growth rate for the entire US economy. In 2016 the US achieved a $25 billion trade surplus for creative goods and services because of exports of films, television programmes, video games and more. This is more than 10 times the amount from 2006; wherein the trade surplus was just $2 billion.

Designing a strategy uniquely for the creative industries requires reviewing each sector’s value chain and linking government interventions in a more coordinated approach. Important policies that need to be looked at include building a creative talent base through arts education in schools and universities, facilitating the establishment of creative entrepreneurial enterprises, designing culture districts or clusters within cities to maximise market efficiency, and growing demand for creative goods.

London, Buenos Aires lead the way

In 2018, the Mayor of London announced the Creative Enterprise Zones, an innovative initiative which seeks to designate small areas of London so artists and creative businesses can thrive. The policy proposal includes providing permanent affordable housing, live-work spaces, studios and workspaces, excellent links to transportation and digital infrastructure, partnering with education providers and job agencies to offer training programmes and employment opportunities, and also providing financial grants for start-ups by City Hall, local authorities, and the private sector.

Interestingly, the Borough of Croydon is being positioned as a music city that is a place for nurturing emerging talents in the music industry. Some of its key offerings include paid work placements with leading national and local arts organisations aimed at young people, providing a 40 per cent subsidy for under-25s who are looking for studio space, offering a business rate relief for new creative start-ups, and launching a start-up incubator programme offering bespoke business support.

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Similarly, Buenos Aires also focuses on clustering key industries within creative districts. The creative industries make up 9.3 per cent of the city’s GDP and employ more than 150,000 people, representing 9.1 per cent of the city’s entire workforce. Buenos Aires was chosen as the first Unesco City of Design in 2005 and has since launched the successful Design District initiative to channel the city’s design companies in a design-intensive manufacturing cluster.

The strategy includes promoting neighbourhoods for creative professionals to work and network, offering training programmes via arts and craft schools, supporting the establishment of creative enterprises, and organising cultural and commercial events, such as fairs, exhibitions, conferences, courses, and seminars.

The creative industries have a valuable place in our economy. They contribute to economic growth, employment, tourism and investment. Beyond that, creative goods contribute to community pride, cultural identity and individual well-being. There should always be a home that welcomes the imagination of creative people.

Sara Al Mulla is an Emirati civil servant focusing on human development policy and children’s literature.