Speech by Minister Nathi Mthethwa at the Edinburgh International Culture Summit, Scotland.

Mthethwa on SABCI want to start my contribution on this occasion by expressing the appreciation of the South African government and her citizens for the role the Scottish people have played in the anti-Apartheid struggle. Your  contribution to liberate our country and our people have brought us to where we are today.

We further appreciate the continued support of the Scottish people and your initiatives to deepen the transformation within our country and we urge you to continue to make the world a better place for humanity through an organisation like Action for Southern Africa.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been directed to speak on the Topic: “Culture and Economics” but with the permission of the programme director I want to cover the creative industry as a whole within the limited time I have.

Global crisis

As we all know , the current financial crisis that originated in 2007, is the worst the world has seen since the Great Depression that started late in 1929 and continued well into the 1930’s.  Up until today the world is still feeling the pinch of this economic crisis from which many countries, especially in the developed world have not as yet fully recovered.

Developing countries on the other hand, over the last few years have seen some recovery, especially in Africa.

However, the real growth potential lies in the creative industries across the globe. This industry is the future because amongst other attributes it consist of young people who are innovators by their very nature. Economists agree  that the creative industries form a remarkably healthy branch of the global economy. When the crisis hit in 2007, world exports of creative goods and services continued to grow.

The growth of the industry in countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt, Senegal and Cameroon demonstrate the ability of the sector to contribute to social cohesion efforts.


In recognition of the potential of the industry, BRICS countries have signed an agreement on culture which states the following amongst other things;

“… being aware of the importance of broadening and deepening the cooperation in the field of culture,

 “being convinced that cultural dialogue contributes to the progress of nations and better mutual understanding of cultures, facilitating rapprochement of peoples,

 “being firmly committed to the BRICS values in the spirit of openness, inclusiveness, equality, respect for cultural diversity, and mutual respect and learning,”

Economics of Culture

A report produced in 2015, conducted by CISAC — the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers, highlighted amongst others the following:

  •  The Creative and cultural industries (CCI) generated an amount of two trillion, two hundred and fifty Billion US Dollars (US$2,250) thus creating more than 29.5 million jobs. The CCI employ 1% of the world’s active population.
  • Creative activities contribute significantly to youth employment and careers in CCI are relatively open to people of all ages and backgrounds. In Europe, CCI sectors typically employed more people aged between 15–29 years than any other sector.
  • Creative industries also tend to favour the participation of women when compared with more traditional industries. Statistics compiled by the UK Government showed that women accounted for more than 50% of people employed in the music industry in 2014 (vs. 47% in the active population overall).
  • Moreover, creation is driven by small businesses or individuals, giving rise to agile and innovative employers. More than half (53%) of Canadian gaming developers say they are independent operators.
  • In the US, artists are 3.5 times more likely to be self-employed than US workers overall.
  • World-class cultural infrastructure is a catalyst for urban development: building a museum often offers opportunities to engage in large urban development projects and to develop a new “city brand” around cultural and creative precincts. Such flagship projects boost a city’s attractiveness for tourists, talent and highly skilled workers. Bilbao, in Spain’s Basque Country, is now an icon of culture-led urban regeneration: construction of the Guggenheim Museum led to the creation of more than 1,000 full-time jobs, and tourist visits have since multiplied eight-fold.
  • Equally important, CCI make cities more liveable, providing the hubs and many of the activities around which citizens develop friendships, build a local identity and find fulfilment.
  • Informal CCI sales in emerging countries were estimated to total an amount of US$33billion in 2013 and provided 1.2 million jobs. Performing arts are the biggest employers in the informal economy, providing unofficial music and theatre performances (street performances, festivals and concerts that do not pay authors’ rights, private performances at marriages and funerals, etc.), which are often free for audiences. In Africa, these performances are sometimes funded by individual sponsors.

Our point of departure

Since the democratic breakthrough of 1994, our government has moved from the point that the creative industries have a powerful role to play in Nation building and that it can greatly contribute to our national economy.

Flowing from this understanding, amongst other things we developed a programme called the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE). This Programme is focused on strategic investment in all sectors of the industry with the aim of building markets, developing audiences and supporting human capital development.

The basket of interventions that comprise the MGE programme range from the establishment of an Art Bank to catalyse growth in the contemporary visual arts market; to the creation of a Cultural Observatory which will collect and disseminate information; to a series of investment mechanisms in market development platforms locally and internationally.

The investment by government, and the firm policy stance recognising the economic contribution of the creative industries, has been given added impetus by a recent mapping study conducted by the Department of Arts and Culture.

Conducted in 2013, the study found that the creative economy made a significant contribution to that of the country representing 2,9% of Gross Domestic Product and that it created over 560,000 jobs.

Further, given the importance of transforming the nature and profile of the South Africa economy, and improving access for previously disadvantaged South Africans, over 50% of enterprises were black-owned and significantly, over 30% were owned by young people.

From an economic perspective arts and culture are incredibly important for the developing world. They are an untapped and constantly renewable resource that can initiate immense growth, unleash skills and creativity and compete globally as they are expressed in unique and innovative ways. For governments there can be no question as to whether arts and culture should be supported, it is however always a question of how much support it will need to thrive.

The Value of Cultural Diplomacy

The value of culture and the arts cannot be underestimated, as we struggle to maintain our individual and collective identities and build our respective nations.

Often called “soft diplomacy” learning about each other’s world view, belief systems and way of life is a critical part of creating a better world for all.

Central to cultural diplomacy is the notion of people to people relations with partner countries jointly engaging each other and deepening their understanding of each other.

Today the world faces unprecedented challenges, high and continuously rising levels of youth unemployment and disenfranchisement, a deep economic recession, growing evidence of the impact of climate change and a wave of migration into and across Europe not seen since World War II as people flee terrible conflict in their countries.

Now more than ever we must invest in and support the creative industry as a way for people to retain a sense of self, as a way to build prosperous and innovative nations and most of all, as a means to be themselves, express their views, identities  and feelings in constructive ways.

Thank you.



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