Tapping into SA's 'golden' creative opportunity

Jun 14 2017 18:48
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The creative economy is South Africa’s untapped "golden economy" – something the Mzansi Golden Economy strategy emphasised.

It remains, however, undervalued, underdeveloped and underappreciated, although it contributes almost 3% to the gross domestic product (GDP) – more than agriculture – and employs over 440 000 people – more than mining, according to Prof. Richard Haines, CEO of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

"Unlocking the potential in this nascent economy is one of the critical keys to SA’s economic growth as we move past the minerals energy complex and into the post-knowledge economy and what is known as the 'fourth industrial revolution’ where technology has centre-place," Haines told Fin24.

The SACO is a research centre and think tank conducting research for the South African National Department of Arts & Culture.

Fin24 asked Haines to tell more about SACO, its role and activities.

What is the SACO and why was it established?

Essentially the SACO is a research centre and think tank representing the highest forms and levels of research conducted for the SA National Department of Arts & Culture.

The SACO was established in 2015 by the Department of Arts and Culture, through the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy (MGE) of 2011, as a statistical and socio-economic research institute to chart the socio-economic impact of the arts, culture and heritage (ACH) sectors and the cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in South Africa.

The SACO uses a range of innovative statistical methodologies, audits and research tools to understand and analyse the creative economy. Its main purpose is the development of a comprehensive cultural information system which continuously captures cultural data and monitors and evaluates government initiatives in the sectors or industries.

The SACO is headquartered in Nelson Mandela Bay, but operates nationally, analysing the creative and cultural industries and arts, culture and heritage sectors. It is hosted by Nelson Mandela University on behalf of the Department of Arts and Culture, in partnership with Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare.

What is the creative economy and why is it important?

The creative economy is the sum of a number of parts which make up the ACH sectors and the CCIs. At the moment we use UNESCO’s Framework for Cultural Statistics as the basis on which to define the "cultural and creative economy" by domains, but we are working on expanding on this for a more African view of the creative economy.

UNESCO defines the CCIs as "those industries that combine the creation, production and commercialisation of products which are intangible and cultural in nature. These are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of goods or services".

How is SA positioned to harness the potential of the creative economy?

A 2013/14 Mapping Study by the Department of Arts and Culture showed some interesting trends about the CCIs in SA. CCI jobs made up 2.93% of total employment in SA in 2014 (443 778 jobs) - slightly more than mining – though mining has higher pay bands. The sector also contributed R24bn in taxes in the 2013/14 period, and helped underpin the empowerment of black South Africans, women and the youth.

Over 50% of the creative industries and enterprises are owned by black South Africans, 40% are owned by women and more than 30% by young entrepreneurs. If we just aimed to double the contribution of the CCIs to the GDP, we would create close to half a million new jobs and drive SA straight into the knowledge economy - and prepare ourselves for a future where creativity and innovation will be currency.

How do creative and cultural industries contribute to SA’s GDP?

In 2014 SA’s creative economy contributed over R90.5bn to the national economy or 2.9% of the GDP in 2013/14, exceeding, for instance, the contribution of agriculture to the GDP (2.2%).

How does SA’s creative economy compare to other international creative economies?

The 2015 EY report, "Cultural Times" - the first global survey quantifying the global economic and social contribution of the industries - found that CCI revenue generated globally accounts for 3% of the world’s GDP. It also creates a total of 29.5 million jobs worldwide, employing 1% of the earth’s employable population. Up-to-date data is difficult to find, but indications are, that most countries have significant creative economies contributing between 3% and 10% to the GDP.

South Korea (9% to GDP), Brazil (10% to GDP) and, interestingly, Russia (6%) feature quite highly. China and the US are on par at around 4% contribution to GDP (with actual data and figures ranging widely); and in Africa, South Africa and Ethiopia between 2.9% and 4.7% respectively.

Globally, however, it is increasingly recognised that efforts to grow the creative economy need to be amplified to keep pace with development and technology.

Explain what SA needs to do to begin to harness the potential of CCIs and move into the knowledge economy?

The capacity of SA to restructure its economy and leverage off the cultural economy is, in a number of respects, well beyond other comparable economies.

The country possesses a set of historically-layered terrains of creativity and ingenuity and a bedrock of creative talent – past, present and future. The Global Innovation Index suggests that South Africa has quite significant capacity for innovation and creatively-oriented economic and socio-economic activity.

However, the 2014 report on the BRICS grouping’s promotion of CCIs indicates that there is a good deal of unrealised potential.

This potential needs to be promoted and supported as a means to facilitate SA’s full embrace of the knowledge economy; of technology; of potential automation; of the fourth industrial revolution and future economies that are not heavily reliant on the minerals energy complex and manufacturing.

What role does government play in facilitating the growth of the creative economy?

Publically funded arts, culture and heritage projects, events and organisations play a vital role in SA’s economic growth, development and job creation – and are key elements of the creative economy.

Moreover, policy, planning and strategy are critical for directional markers in terms of where the economy can and should go. The National Development Plan for example, makes significant mention of the knowledge economy and its greater centrality.

But to understand the role of government in relation to the creative economy, we need to be reflexive and to monitor and evaluate successes and challenges. This is what the SACO, in part, is tasked with doing – charting the impact of public funding and ensuring adequate monitoring and evaluation.

What is SACO’s role?

As think tank on the nature, scope and particularities of culture and the creative economy, the South African Cultural Observatory focuses on trends, analysis, mapping, policy, impact and research of the creative and cultural industries and arts, culture and heritage sectors.

As such, we aim to provide new knowledge, insights and tools which can be used to unlock the potential of the Mzansi Golden Economy, thus facilitating the growth of the cultural economy.

The research and tools – such as our new South African Festivals and Events Economic Impact Calculator – are designed to support the industry to make informed decisions and lobby for greater support from funders.

What is the role of monitoring and evaluation in the development of the creative economy?
Monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is a management tool that allows creatives to track the progress and gauge the success of their projects. It also plays an important role in helping public and private funders understand the value of CCI projects. M&E is increasingly recognised as an essential tool for assessing, and expressing, the economic impact of arts and culture projects, and evaluating the status of the creative economy.

The SACO Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for measuring the value of publicly-funded arts, culture and heritage projects developed by cultural economist Prof. Jen Snowball of Rhodes University and SACO chief research strategist, is a tool to "count culture" and identify some tangible, quantitative value.

Publically funded ACH projects, events and organisations play a vital role in SA’s economic growth, development and job creation – and are key elements of the creative economy.

Tell us about how the SACO counts culture and talk of a CCI index.

The CCIs are receiving more attention now than in previous decades, particularly because of their potential for job creation, stimulating innovation and the growth of smaller enterprises. The SACO uses various monitoring and evaluation tools and techniques to "count" or evaluate the impact that the CCIs are having on the cultural economy.

Tasked with mapping the entirety of SA’s cultural and creative industries (CCIs) and arts, culture and heritage sectors, the SACO is working towards creating a viable cultural information system as well as a CCI Index, which will be released on a quarterly basis and will form another important monitoring tool for industry performance and contribution.

What research is the SACO currently doing?

The SACO has completed monitoring and evaluation key development indicator reports on the:

- Royal Heritage Festival Vhembe;
- South African Music Awards;
- Indoni Festival;
- NM Mabote Craft and Development Project;
- Udumo Entertainers Youth Dance Event;
- Mahika Mahikeng Festival;
- Macufe Festival

We have also completed a number of research and publication reports, including:
- Measuring Cultural Employment in South Africa: A comparison between the UNESCO Guidelines and the South African Standard Occupational and Industrial Classification Code;
- Transformation and job creation in the cultural and creative industries in SA;
- Cultural Employment in SA using LFS Data;
- Social Cohesion Statistical Framework;
- Cultural and Creative Industry (CCI) Product Index;
- Regional Development of the Cultural and Creative Industries in South Africa: A case study of the Sarah Baartman District;
- The Satellite Position Paper;
- The role of the CCI’s in Regenerating Urban and Rural Economies;
- Economy of the Imagination;
- South Africa: Culture and the National Interest – Discussion Document.

In 2017/18 the SACO will undertake a new mapping study, which will consider information and data gathered in the areas of jobs and employment; contribution to GDP; transformation and ownership; social cohesion; location and clustering.

During the 2017/18 financial year the focus will also be on developing a broader overview of the impact and effectiveness of the Mzansi Golden Economy Strategy and its related funding.

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