South African Cultural Observatory

An Early Assessment of The Impact of The Covid-19 Crisis on The Cultural and Creative Industries in South Africa

BY 29.06.20

As of March 2020, the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) conducted a survey targeting businesses and freelancers in the cultural and creative industries (CCIs). This survey was undertaken so that the Observatory could ascertain the impact of the measures that were put in place to manage the COVID-19 pandemic in the country. The survey also sought to understand the adaptation strategies that the sector was using to cope with the pandemic, and what kind of support the industry would find useful. Run over a period of two months, the survey yielded interesting insights for the industry (Covid19 impact on CCIs).

An overwhelming number of the participants (82%) had a turnover of about R525 000, 00 per annum. Very few, (12%) of those surveyed indicated that they could continue with 50% or more of their normal business activities, i.e. face-to-face operations. This was largely because more than two-thirds (69%) of the participants were involved face-to-face activities which were not permitted. The businesses using mostly the face-to-face mode were also less likely to be able to conduct their business online, work from home, do other work, or use the time to build up stock. They were also less likely to make use of their reserve funds and more likely to depend on the financial support of family, it was learned.

A very small percentage (15%) of the employers and freelancers who completed the survey believed that they would see an increase in demand for their products and/or services because they were able to conduct their business online.

A sizable number (40%) of the respondents were now using their reserves to survive, while 21% said they were relying on family and friends for support.

At least a third (35%) said that they would make use of the shutdown time to move their businesses to online platforms, whilst about (32%) said they would use this time to upskill themselves.  The understanding of those wanting to move to online platforms is that the online environment would expose them to an even larger, newer and geographically diverse audience.  

The majority (79%) of the employers and freelancers claimed to know about the government support that was being offered at the time, however, only a quarter (25%) of them believed that they qualified for it largely due to the fact that their businesses have remained informal.

In economic terms, the study shows a direct impact on total output of the Covid-19 shutdown on the sector to be just over R53 billion. The sector shutdown is expected to reduce South Africa’s GDP (direct and indirect impact) by R99,7 billion in 2020. 

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