South African Cultural Observatory

South African Cultural Observatory

The South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) is a national statistical and socio-economic research project, established by the Department of Sport, Arts & Culture, with the purpose of developing a comprehensive cultural information system in South Africa. The South African Cultural Observatory is hosted by and based at the Nelson Mandela University, and co-hosted in partnership with Rhodes University and the University of Kwazulu-Natal. The primary cultural domains, as idenitifed by UNESCO, such as arts, tourism, heritage, libraries and museums, are the main research focus of the SACO and such research will support the development of intellectual capacity across these sectors.

The key functions of the South African Cultural Observatory include the following:

  • Policy focused research (surveys, case studies)
  • Reviews of current programmes
  • M&E – impact of government spending
  • Collection of statistics (databases)
  • Physical and Online access
  • Networking, sharing, partnerships

Executive Direction

Executive Direction Image

Unathi Lutshaba - SACO Executive Director

Ms. Unathi Lutshaba has directed the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) since 2018. Under her leadership the research project of the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture has grown from strength to strength producing a significant body of work on the cultural and creative industries and arts, culture, and heritage sectors. Under ger guidance, South African policymakers, government and the private and civil sectors have a tangible grasp on the value of the creative economy and its impact on the economy.

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Biographical Data

The South African Cultural Observatory has developed a basic biographical form that can be used to collect data/ information on the makeup of the South African Creative & Cultural Industries/ Arts, Culture and Heritage sectors from the perspective of individuals and businesses operating across them. We would like you to fill out this form so that you can be added to our database.

Take survey

SACO Genesis

Conceived of in 2013, through the Mzansi Golden Economy strategy, the SACO is a project of the South African Department of Sport, Arts and Culture (DSAC) hosted by the Nelson Mandela University in partnership with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Rhodes University, and several research partners.

The SACO was officially established in 2015 to develop a more sophisticated understanding of South Africa’s cultural and creative economy – and also to map trends, develop statistics, gather economic data across the arts, culture and heritage sectors and the cultural and creative industries (CCIs); and to inform decision and policymakers.

Since then, we have been fundamental in shaping new knowledge, tools, and insights into South Africa’s cultural and creative economy.

In 2019, DSAC incorporated sports into its ambit of policy making and government support. As such, from 2023, the SACO also focuses on mapping the economic impact of sports in South Africa.

Sport, arts & culture NNMU University of KwaZulu-Natal Rhodes University