South African Cultural Observatory

Exporting Our Culture- Exploring International Markets for the CCIs

BY 30.03.21

The creative industries are growing — and will continue to play an important role in the economy. The cultural and creative industries (CCIs) are one of the world’s most rapidly growing and increasingly important economic sectors. The sector employs over 29 million people globally and is responsible for about USD 2,250 trillion in revenues (EY 2015). It accounts for between 2% and 7% of GDP for most countries around the world.

It is important for the sector to think beyond the domestic markets and consider exporting their goods and services to international markets. While it may come with its challenges, there are many advantages associated with exports both for country and the individual companies. These include growth; better utilisation of national resources; increased overall level of technological and economic development; improved global competitiveness; earning foreign currency required to pay for essential imports and services and increased sales for the individuals or companies involved.

Creative businesses can no longer rely only on the domestic South African market. With the COVID-19 pandemic, there are fewer international tourists visiting the country to buy our art and other creative products and services. Creative businesses must start to think about taking their products and services to foreign markets.

Exporting is not easy. Competition can be fierce. But with the right products and business skills markets can be conquered. Potential exporters need to start out by assessing whether their business is ready for export by identifying where their business is strong and what they can do to be export-ready. They must also be very clear about their reasons for export and have a strategic vision for their business in the export arena. Planning is therefore paramount.

Exporting involves dealing in different jurisdictions with different laws, customs and market demand. The learning curve is very steep – but there is a lot of help available. However, a potential exporter must understand their product offering. What is the unique selling points? Are these going to be relevant in the chosen international markets? Can the offering be changed to meet specific demands of the new markets?

A successful business distributing their product or service locally could perhaps find a similar way in the international market. A business selling successfully in five or six small shops in different cities in the country might sell that same product in shops in Gaborone, Tokyo, New York or Beijing. Research is critical. Fortunately, South Africa has a global network of foreign trade representatives that can assist with relevant market intelligence. These are mainly attached to embassies in countries where SA has diplomatic relations.

Banks and freight forwarders also have international networks that can advise on ensuring that the product being sold is safely transported to the foreign country and meets all the requirements. The banks are vital in ensuring that the exporter is paid and can offer advice on different methods of being paid and how to deal with the risks associated with each method.

While the sector is one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a positive development that has emerged from the lockdowns. There is an upsurge in online cultural participation and consumption. Cultural and creative practitioners can take advantage of this trend to show-case and sell their products and services to bigger markets not restricted by geographic boundaries. The creative practitioners in SA should also take advantage of the programmes that the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) will be implementing to encourage intra-African trade.

Additional information on export-related matters can be found on www.exporthelp.co.za.

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