Our Arab world is abuzz with many changes on all levels: political, economic, and social. We are currently living in a period of changing trends, of attempts and diligence, some of which are right and some of which are wrong.
We live in the wake of a frightening pandemic that has exhausted the economies of most of the powerful countries and the reality is a life full of difficulties. Wars, conflicts, and societal and economic crisis has led to a loss of opportunities and what we are most at loss with is the initiative to invest and gain advancement and growth from worldwide creators and innovators.
However, there is still time… the human mind is capable of thinking both critically and creatively. Time is an available asset as long as man lives on earth can handle both its bounties and face its dangers.
It is necessary to take advantage of the opportunity now, not later.
I was, and remain so an advocate of the need to benefit from a creative economy in our region because of the provision of job opportunities and support for the philosophy of participation and social cohesion, as well as the preservation and presentation of our cultures, our roots despite external influences.
Sustainable development hence becomes paramount to maintaining a creative and dynamic economy.
What is the creative economy?
The creative economy is a dynamic field; and therefore, its definition is ever-evolving. It is an interplay between human creativity, intellectual property, technology and knowledge. In short, it is the generation and commercialization of creativity, ideas, knowledge and information. Despite the lack of a clear definition, it is a dynamic matter that merges with the changing circumstances, place and time.
As for the idea of how to benefit from this type of economy, as it is an informal style as opposed to the official economy of countries: in saying this it is important to know the importance of this economy which boasts many fields including advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design and fashion, video, photography, music, performing arts and publishing, along with research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, television, and radio.
The creative economy also includes the areas of building cities and urban areas, creating an urban environment that enables and stimulates knowledge.
Innovation and creativity are very important and beneficial for continuous development.
The official economy is relatively dependent on some factors such as the availability of raw materials, agricultural land, oil wells, sea coasts, and labor, and the wealth and sustainability of countries heavily depend on the availability of these factors.
That is why the creative economy values creativity and imagination, and tries to provide an equal availability to everyone, for people and nations.
In 2019 and during the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, 2021 was declared to be the year of the creative economy in order to reach sustainable development for the world.
This is a declaration and recognition that the creative economy is at the forefront of solutions for the world in the face of challenges and difficulties.
Many major international bodies and institutions such as UNESCO, United Nations Development Programs and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are also working to support this type of economy.
The term ‘orange economy’ was coined for a better understanding of how different sectors overlap and benefit in an ever-changing digital world.
The orange economy is a term coined by Felipe Buitrago Restrepo and Ivan Duque Marquez, authors of the book “The Orange Economy: Endless Opportunity.”
The use of the creative economy in our Arab region has now become a necessity to accelerate growth and to achieve a better future in general. Being one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global economy, according to a report issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2018, where the average growth rate of creative goods between 2013 – 2015 rose about 7.34 percent.
Global exports of creative goods increased from $208 billion in 2002 to $509 billion in 2015.
We stand on solid ground
Our Arab region has a tremendous heritage of history and culture, creativity and the arts, specifically in literature, cinema and architecture. The region is also mostly fertile and that is a fantastic asset whereby we can easily build a system of “creative economy.”
Digitally, the Middle East and Africa are emerging markets for the cultural and creative sectors, according to the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). The revenues of these sectors in 2018 amounted to about $58 million, and they employ 2.4 million employees: which is a substantial number.
The World Bank also indicated that the creative industries in the Middle East are growing by more than 10 percent annually and that some Arab countries are investing in major cultural projects, with the aim of diversifying their future sources of revenue and benefiting from their other positive outcomes.
The fashion industry in the Middle East and North Africa has also seen much growth, at an annual rate of six percent, and the total size of the industry reached $55 billion in 2019. These successful and significant impacts on the growth of the fashion industry are mainly due to the measures some Arab countries took to raise their tourism growth rates, as well as the increase in the purchasing power of women in many countries of the Middle East, specifically the Arab Gulf states.
The creative economy and technology
I claim that we stand on solid ground to launch the creative economy towards a brighter future.
The reasons for these increases are the resources in our possession: components necessary to use the creative economy in adapting technology amongst other things.
Take the number of university graduates in our region for example, there are more than 30 million at present and their ability to deal with technology adequately means the desire to receive digital entertainment content through different viewing platforms of high quality, is on the rise, this includes online shopping as well.
Artificial intelligence will also play a crucial role in shaping the creative economy, and the experience economy will flourish, benefiting the creative industries associated with it.
When the creative economy is combined with the digital economy, it will increase its contribution to the gross domestic product, due to the nature of the digital age freeing up the relationship between the producer and the consumer.
The convergence between technology and creative content leads to an increase in markets.
Our youth are digitally literate, well educated, and technology savvy. Our culture inspires them using many forms of creativity, not to mention our experience in the production of creative goods, and this will make the process of developing the economy in this way much faster, provided that officials participate and support them to show the full potential of our youth.
Supporting governments and their belief in creativity
I believe it is our duty to seize the opportunity, and foster the growth of this type of economy, by training talent at an early stage, stimulating innovation resulting from the convergence of ideas, digital literacy, establishing physical and virtual infrastructure, as well as disseminating information on best practices, business models and opportunities for innovators in and across the globe. The promotion of inclusion and integration to showcase our creativity to the world is a key factor.
I also believe that without real support from governments, and their belief in the creative economy nothing will be achieved. There are a large number of countries that actually believed in the idea, and sought out to implement it through different patterns and forms, and I can say that the full support for the creative economy from governments will undoubtedly result in an era of prosperity and development.
The Creative Economy and Egypt
Cairo is a great example.
It is a creative city, using distinctive heritage, local uniqueness, and unparalleled culture to attract potential opportunities for creative growth. It has always been cited as a creative and cultural reference. The creative class in Egypt makes up 29.5 percent of the workforce, and according to the Global Innovation Index of 2015, Egypt ranked 41 out of 139 countries in this respect.
Egypt could easily catapult its position to the top.
With our well-educated and tech-savvy youth, our culture inspiring many forms of creativity, our long expertise in the production of specific creative goods. We can make the process of growing the economy a lot faster, allowing our youth to realize their full potential.
Rachid Mohamed Rachid is one of the most prominent entrepreneurs in the Middle East and Egypt’s former Minister of Trade, Industry, and Investment.
Rachid is the Founder of the Swiss based Alsara Investment Group, which invests in companies in creative industries in the United States, Europe and the Middle East, with a focus on design, innovation and technology. He is also the CEO of Mayhoola for Investment, which invests in high-end brands, and is the Chairman of Valentino and the Chairman of Balmain, two of the leading luxury fashion companies in the world.