Creative Industries as Drivers of Economic Diversification

February 8, 2022

Photo: UNDP, 2021

To mark the end of 2021 as International Year of Creative Economy for Sustainable Development, UNDP Guinea-Bissau organised an event about creative industries that was held in Bissau on the 8th and 9th of December, in partnership with Camões, Instituto da Cooperação e da Língua. The purpose of the celebration of such an event linked to the creative industries sector in Guinea-Bissau was twofold: to initiate a discussion on the role of creative industries in the sustainable transformation and economic growth of the country, with a rigorous analysis of the opportunities they present and the obstacles they face. And, additionally, to provide a space for joint reflection with the main actors involved on the best possible strategy to introduce this sector on the map of Guinea-Bissau's economic and social development, with a transversal and inclusive dialogue at national level on the mechanisms that could be developed to promote the financing of creative industries.

The event was attended by institutional representatives such as the UNDP Resident Representative and Deputy Resident Representative, Tjark Egenhoff and José Levy, the Ambassador of Portugal, José Caroço, the Secretary of State for Culture from the government of Guinea-Bissau, Francelino Cunha, and the director of the Portuguese Cultural Centre in Bissau, António Nunes. During the two days of the event, artistic interventions in various disciplines were presented by renowned artists from the Bissau-Guinean scene: Eneida Marta, Diima, Ismael and Lemos Djata, Alfa Canté and Edson Ferreira. The latter is the director of the José Carlos Schwarz Cultural Centre, and he stressed the importance of “education as a powerful tool for people to learn about and consume Bissau-Guinean culture, as well as to prepare the next generations to have a cultural and identity base of their own”. Irlando Ferreira, Director of the National Centre for Art, Crafts and Design in Cabo Verde, agreed with him in this reading and claimed that “creative industries participate in the narrative and development of the country, and it is not possible to talk about development if consumption spaces are not built”.

Photo: UNDP, 2021

His was one of the online interventions that enriched the debate and roundtables on site. Furthermore, Adebola Williams, Nigerian political activist and co-founder of the cultural platform RED Africa, highlighted that “there is a demand for African content, it is a valued stream in the global market and that is why we need to support African creative industries”. Using the creative industries as a catalyst to generate professional opportunities for young people and boost the country's economy was one of the key messages that emerged during the debates and roundtables, and more support from the government was demanded in this regard. The need to create platforms to distribute and disseminate the artists’ work to take advantage of the immense opportunities that the cultural industries offer was another. It is a priority objective for UNDP to provide support to entrepreneurship encouraging initiatives that can be identified, to enrich and improve the ecosystem of entrepreneurs and thus contribute to diversified, responsible and durable growth.

Dr. Brais Álvarez Pereira, who is doing an assessment on the cultural industries for the preparation of the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, explained the particularities of the sector from an economic perspective. Financial inclusion is one of UNDP’s main priorities in Guinea-Bissau, and it was within the framework of the implementation of that programme that the event was carried on. It was shown that creative industries have sufficient potential to play a pivotal role in the diversification of economic opportunities that is essential to achieve structural transformation. By strengthening private sector capacity, as well as promoting employment and the empowerment of women and young people, the creative industries can also help to increase financial inclusion and positive externalities both on the society and the rest of the national economy in the long-term.

UNDP Guinea-Bissau is committed to an agenda of support for innovation and entrepreneurship in the private sector, considering that one of the main challenges facing innovators and entrepreneurs in the country is precisely the weakness and underdevelopment of the business and innovation ecosystem. Improving this ecosystem and stimulating an entrepreneurial spirit based on innovation that takes advantage of the country's creativity and cultural richness to turn it into an engine of economic and social transformation is key. The principal limitation specifically identified by professionals in the creative industries sector is the lack of adequate regulation and public support, with assistance for access to credit and state-led demand and promotion, such as support in the organisation of festivals and cultural events, being the most desired policies. UNDP is working together with the government and BCEAO to include the creative industries in the National Financial Inclusion Strategy, to support the implementation of a strategy for the cultural sector for the period 2021-2030 and to set out a Cultural Policy Charter in Guinea-Bissau, also in partnership with ECOWAS.

The inclusive and transformative progress and growth of the Bissau-Guinean people is the ultimate end of UNDP Guinea-Bissau’s work, and the cultural and creative industries might act as drivers for sustainable development to help the country move forward.