South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction December 2020

BY 17.12.20

As we close the year 2020, it is pretty difficult to decide as to where to start, what to talk about and what not to talk about. Just thinking about the year evokes and riles so many emotions at every level imaginable. Whether this be at a personal or professional level. As we do our best to come to terms with how the pandemic has affected and touched us, how we should reflect on the year past, and how to best look beyond the cloud, it is perhaps wise to remember that the best our generation can do is to bequeath a positive cultural and heritage legacy that generations after us can be proud of. This is despite all the attending difficulties imposed by the pandemic. That will be determined by what we do today in response.

To put our best foot forward during a very trying period, throughout the current year the SA Cultural Observatory produced several interesting and contributory reports that have hopefully shaped conversations both about the pandemic and the sector’s economic survival & development. We have highlighted or referred to some in this edition. We released our main economic report, The Economic Mapping of the Cultural and Creative Industries in South Africa 2020, that measures the sector’s contribution to the GDP and analyses how the sector performed between 2016 and 2018. The study revealed a few important findings, and amongst these is the sector’s 1.7% or R74.4 billion direct contribution to the GDP. As with most of the economy, the pandemic has certainly negatively affected this level of contribution.  

Soon after President Ramaphosa announced measures to limit the spread of coronavirus in the country, we undertook a study to evaluate the impact of Covid-19 and associated lockdown measures on the cultural and creative industries (CCIs). The study, Measuring the Impact of the Covid-19 Crisis on the Cultural and Creative Industries in SA: An Early Assessment, showed a direct impact on total output of the Covid-19 shutdown on the sector to be just over R53 billion. It also indicated that that the sector shutdown was expected to reduce South Africa’s GDP (direct and indirect impact) by R99,7 billion in the year 2020.

The venue-based sectors such as museums, performing arts, live music, festivals, cinema, theatres and all sub-sectors that cannot easily move to online platforms are the hardest hit by social distancing measures. With this in mind, we commissioned a report specifically to understand how the live music venues and music sector was affected. The report titled ‘Impact Analysis Live Music and its Venues and the South African economy during COVID19’, shows for example that a majority of the sample had previously been operating for more than five years, but the impact of COVID-19 has been devastating even on these established practitioners. 90% of the live music industry lost income due to COVID-19 and 25% of those surveyed indicated that they would not be able to continue with any elements of their business under lockdown.

During this year alone, we undertook a number of important studies, but thought I should highlight these to remind stakeholders of the critical role we can play to support the sector during the difficult period. As many of us take a break during the festive season, characterised by limited festivities, let’s find some way, however small, to support the South African cultural and creative industries. Let’s consume and purchase as many SA cultural products and services while we observe all the Covid-19 safety protocols.

Until then,

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