A Creative Boost for South-South Cooperation

  • by Kanya D'Almeida (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

The Creative Economy Report 2010, which was presented Wednesday at the U.N. by a panel of development experts, highlights the fact that industries dedicated to the production and distribution of artistic and aesthetic ideas and commodities have been far more resilient to financial and economic crises in the past few decades than other markets.

According to the report's comprehensive research, though the financial crash of 2008 caused a drastic contraction of nearly 12 percent in international trade, world exports of creative goods and services were not only immune to market fluctuations, but actually flourished, doubling their 2002 levels to reach 592 billion dollars by 2008.

This marks an impressive annual growth rate of 14 percent over a mere six years — clear proof of the potential of creative economies to serve as a robust foundation for developing nations to quickly enter a lively arena of the world economy.

Ambassador Josephine Ojiambo, president of the U.N. General Assembly High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation and deputy permanent representative of Kenya to the U.N., stressed, 'An improved understanding of the dynamism of human creativity in stimulating growth is crucial to South- South collaboration and the development of the economies of the global south.'

Ojiambo pointed to the example of Riverwood, Kenya's budding equivalent of Nigeria's Nollywood, India's Bollywood and the United States' Hollywood film industries, to indicate the adaptive and fluid nature of culture as the perfect forum for addressing a broad set of priorities and challenges in developing economies.

'Properly cultivated, the sale and trade of creative goods can bring about an unprecedented level of South-South sharing, trade and investment in digital technology,' Ojiambo said.

'The study and development of creative economies provides an evidence-based platform for urgently needed socially- inclusive development,' she added.

According to the report, the world economy has received a valuable injection of income from South-South trade, which amounted to close to 60 billion dollars in the 2002-2008 period, demonstrating a stunning growth rate of 20 percent.

Additionally, the South's collective export of creative goods totaled 176 billion dollars in 2008, accounting for well over 40 percent of creative industry's trade — an indispensable contribution.

Addressing a press briefing at the U.N. Wednesday, Rebeca Grynspan, under-secretary-general and UNDP's associate administrator, said, 'If well-nurtured, creative economies could lead to the expansion not just of socio-economic relations, but also of much-needed artistic interconnectedness and cultural diversity among the LDCs.'

The report defines a creative economy as the collection of industries dedicated to the production of culture and heritage, such as traditional and folk arts; performing and visual arts; print, TV, radio and digitised media; and functional creations like architecture, jewelry and interior design — a collection representing enormous amounts of national, annual output.

As with every aspect of trade and development in the capitalist world economy, those countries most burdened by colonial legacies continue to lag even in the realm of creative economic production.

The report's broad regional analysis puts Africa far behind other emerging economies in the output of creative services. However, Ojiambo reiterated that these initial statistics have no bearing on the mammoth potential of people in the continent to make a contribution.

'Africa is home to a wealth of creative potential,' Ojiambo told IPS. 'If anything is required to jump-start the economy, it is technology — with increased technology even the smallest artisan can more ably access markets and also produce a better quality product.'

Addressing the press briefing, Ojiambo stressed the need for creative economies to expand into every level of society, to ensure that cultural production does not remain in the hands of the elite, intellectual classes in society.

'We definitely need more programmes in schools,' Ojiambo told IPS. 'We are discovering that youngsters just out of school are finding their way into the film industries in most developed countries, and now increasingly across the global south.'

'If creative economy, as a concept, is taught at the school level, then students will be better equipped to find a stimulating job, earn a decent wage and re-enter the economy as productive citizens,' she said.

'We should have tracks within the curriculum, and training not just in the traditional arts, but in areas totally outside the box, so that at every institutional level, particularly in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), people are being prepared to enter this dynamic market,' Ojiambo added.

Yiping Zhou, director of the UNDP Special Unit for South- South Cooperation, concluded by reminding the audience that the report was more a 'book of options' than a binding agreement. 'Creativity is human nature - this report encourages the international community to harness that.'

© Inter Press Service (2011) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service