South African Cultural Observatory

Executive Direction March 2021

BY 30.03.21

The year 2021 started on a very bad note when the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic was devastatingly ruthless. It is difficult to find any family that has been spared or industry that has not experienced loss. The effects of the loss of human capital will be with us for  many years to come. It is perhaps at times like these when we need to master all the courage to keep the fires burning and never despair. We need to do everything possible to keep the cultural and creative industries’ flames alive. 

In the midst of gloom, it is worth noting that the year 2021 was declared the International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development at the 74th United Nations General Assembly. Implemented and led by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), in consultation with UNESCO and other relevant UN entities, the declaration places a focus on culture’s contribution to the global economy and to sustainable development.

The creative economy has grown to become a serious economic contributor in the world economy. The value of the global market for creative goods more than doubled from US$208 billion in 2002 to US$509 billion in 2015. It is among the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy, generating nearly 30 million jobs worldwide and employing more people aged 15−29 than any other sector.

On the continent, January 1 was a significant milestone as it marked the commencement of trading under the world’s biggest free-trade agreement, the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

Despite the temporary challenges imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, these developments are a good signal that the industry has a serious opportunity to become a compelling economic force in the country, the continent and the world at large. This will however be largely possible only if the public and the private sector players work collaboratively to take advantage of the opportunities to develop and grow the sector. The public sector will develop and implement suitable policies that benefit the sector, while the private sector will make the necessary investments designed specifically to benefit the industry.

For their part, cultural practitioners must seize the moment to collaborate and take opportunities presented by the global creative market and the AfCFTA to export both to the rest of the African continent and the world.

We at the SA Cultural Observatory will continue to contribute to the industry by producing what we hope are relevant research outputs that can help the CCIs to recover and grow in leaps and bounds. In this newsletter we have put a spotlight on two recent reports that talk to the private sector support for the industry and cultural participation and consumption of the arts.

On that note, let’s continue to observe the current Covid-19 health protocols with the hope that efforts by the state and private sector to curb the pandemic will bear fruits and the sector will soon return to some kind of normalcy.

Until then,

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As we all know and have somewhat even become accustomed to it, due to social distancing measures put in place to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, since March 26, we have all not able to travel to any venue to consume any form of arts and culture products. Libraries, archives, museums, films and television productions, theatre and orchestra performances, fashion shows, concert tours, zoos as well as music and arts festivals have all been closed or come to a complete halt. Could this signal a death knell for the sector? The answer has to be a Big No, at least not if we can help it as consumers and key stakeholders of the cultural and creative industries.

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