Creative economy offers countries the path to development, says new UNCTAD report

But more data and innovative, multidisciplinary policy responses are needed to strengthen the development impacts of creative industries, especially in developing countries.

The creative economy offers a feasible development option to all countries, especially developing economies, said UNCTAD Creative Economy Outlook 2022 launched on October 7 at the 3rd World Congress on Creative Economy in Bali, Indonesia.

UNCTAD defines creative industries as cycles of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that use creativity and intellectual capital as key inputs. They include a set of knowledge-based activities that produce tangible goods and intangible intellectual or artistic services with creative content, economic value and market objectives.

The report indicates that although exports of creative services greatly exceed those of creative goods, developing countries are underrepresented and face barriers to exporting these services. Furthermore, there is a significant creative trade data gap between developed and developing countries.

UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said: “The report comes at a time when the global community is facing some of the most significant challenges in decades: the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the looming environmental crisis, geopolitical tensions and a major cost. life crisis. Despite these challenges, the creative economy remains an essential sector for sustainable development.

Creative industries increase countries’ income

Trade in creative goods and services generates growing revenues for countries, with services playing a dominant role. The latest available data shows that in 2020, creative goods and services accounted for 3% of total merchandise exports and 21% of total services exports.

Global exports of creative goods have grown from $419 million in 2010 to $524 million in 2020, while global exports of creative services have grown from $487 billion to nearly $1.1 trillion over the past year. the same period.

Developing economies export more creative goods than developed economies. In 2020, China was by far the largest exporter of creative goods ($169 billion), followed by the United States ($32 billion), Italy ($27 billion), Germany ( $26 billion) and Hong Kong (China) ($24 billion).

South-South trade in creative goods has nearly doubled over the past two decades. In 2020, South-South trade in creative goods accounted for 40.5% of creative exports from developing economies. South-South trade is important for developing economies to create new trade opportunities and diversify exports.

Exports of creative goods have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns around the world. Exports of creative goods fell 12.5% ​​in 2020, while exports of all goods fell only 7.2%. However, preliminary data shows that exports of creative goods started to recover in 2021 and exceeded 2019 levels.

Exports of creative services have also increased, with their share in total services exports increasing from 12.3% in 2010 to 21.4% in 2020.

Developed economies export far more creative services than developing countries, accounting for 82.3% of all creative services exports in 2020. The largest exporters of creative services in 2020 were the United States ($206 billion) , Ireland ($174 billion) and Germany ($75 billion). , China ($59 billion) and the United Kingdom ($57 billion).

Creative services have been more resilient than other service sectors during the COVID-19 pandemic. Exports of creative services fell just 1.8% in 2020, while exports of all services fell 20%.

Developing countries face several barriers to participating in trade in services, including creative services. These include lack of foundational skills and infrastructure, which may prevent them from becoming competitive players in creative services, and trade restrictions.

How Countries Harness Creative Industries

The report highlights some recent statistics from developed and developing countries showing how creative industries contribute to various economies.

For example, in Azerbaijan, cultural and creative industries contributed 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 3.8% of total employment in 2018.

In Canada, culture and sport accounted for 3% of GDP, while cultural products accounted for 2.5% of total exports and 2.9% of imports in 2019.

In Colombia, nearly 500,000 people worked in the creative economy in 2021.

In Georgia, culture accounted for 2.8% of GDP and 5.1% of the labor force in 2017.

In Mexico, the cultural sector represented 2.9% of GDP and employed more than 2.2 million people in 2020.

Case studies from Argentina, Indonesia, Mexico and South Africa show that developing countries measure the economic contribution of their creative industries in various ways.

The absence of annual reports and the diversity of definitions and methods applied in different countries make international comparisons difficult.

Countries step up support for creative economy

Responses from 33 countries to an UNCTAD online survey provide insight into how the social, political and economic importance of the creative economy has grown at the national level.

Since 2015, more developing countries have published national strategies, policies and regulations for the sector. Most responding countries have established a national strategy or plan to support and develop creative industries.

Additionally, several countries have developed national plans for their creative industries in 2020 and 2021 as part of their post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

Technology is changing the creative industries

New and emerging technologies (Industry 4.0) are fundamentally changing some creative industries, the report says. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the transition to e-commerce and digital platforms and the scale of creative economy transformation.

But global digital divides persist, with repercussions for the creative economy. Digital divides mainly affect the capacity of the creative economy to be inclusive, especially in developing countries which still need to benefit from the digital dimension of the creative economy.

To enhance the impacts of the creative sector on development, particularly in developing countries, UNCTAD calls for multidisciplinary policy responses in the areas of education, digital infrastructure and legal frameworks related to the creative economy, such as than intellectual property rights.

The challenges of measuring the creative economy

The lack of harmonized definitions and methodologies and the lack of data are among the main challenges in measuring the creative economy. Lack of data can lead to certain creative industries and activities being overlooked in analysis, design and policy-making.

Several frameworks exist for measuring the creative economy, with common industry and product patterns covered, but also differences due to national or regional classifications, activity or product coverage, and methodology.

Developing countries face several challenges in quantifying creative services. They often lack appropriate statistical systems, adequate institutional arrangements, financial resources, IT infrastructure and qualified experts. Even if data exists, processing, formatting and publishing it can be difficult.

Better and more disaggregated data is needed to better understand the role of creative services in economic transformation and their potential for service-oriented diversification in developing economies.

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