Quarter 03 / 2004

Magazine Cover

We have spent the last few months talking about an idea called the Creative Coalition. At its heart, the Creative Coalition is about a call to the creative fraternity in South Africa to collaborate more. And to organise itself into a united front. Into a significant lobby machine and a major lever for growth of the economy.

The creative industries are made up of about 12 sectors: advertising, design, film and video, music, performing arts, fashion design, new media, publishing, radio and television, visual art, architecture and crafts. And at Design Indaba we are working to bring these sectors together.

Why are we so bullish about the creative industries in South Africa, you might ask?

Well, on a social level we have the best ingredients - one of the most diverse societies in the world. This heterogeneity is the lifeblood of creativity. Here we are: black, white, coloured, Asian, man, woman, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Animist, atheist, gay, straight, disabled - all equal and enfranchised in the new South Africa - one of the most tolerant and inclusive societies in the world.

The interesting fact is that after we have got through the initial skittishness and guardedness in 1994, we are all now comfortable in our own skins, and with the phenomenon of a new South Africa. When cultures and people that were forcibly separated come together - as we have in the last few years- it's like a tectonic shift. Sparks are flying - and on the streets and with the youth, in particular, we are jamming with creativity. This is the real gold seam of Johannesburg, for example… the gold is not only inside (i.e. 3 km below), but on top, on the streets of Jozi!

We would like to suggest a few steps towards growing the creative industries:

  1. We need to organise ourselves into a united creative front. Hey, we had the UDF (United Democratic Front) in the 80's… now we need the UCF! We must look beyond the old "silos or group area" mentality, but look at the creative industries holistically. In order to make ourselves over as a prolific industry, we need to collaborate more. Collaborate today, so that we can compete tomorrow. Now, the Creative Coalition is not meant to be a loose association of ex-officio members of all the sector bodies, like the Institute of Architects and the AAA - certainly not a forum for professional meeting-goers! It's ideally a statutory body with a permanent secretariat and a CEO. This body must be at the vanguard of the growth of the creative industries. It must drive it much like Tourism SA drives its sector.
  2. The first role of the Creative Coalition will be the mapping and the measurement of the size of the creative industry - this has never been done before! We need reliable industry metrics - and cannot deal with a black box anymore. But we also know that it is not about size only - the character of the industry is also important. Good competition is vital.
  3. Next, the Creative Coalition must create a potent lobby machine - to drive the policy makers into creating a cogent and coherent strategy for the creative industry. Our country does not have a plan for the creative industries … and we need one, pronto. We need an over-arching, all-encompassing route map for the growth of the creative industries. It needs to look at all the factors of production - education in secondary schools and tertiary institutions, for example. Is the industry attracting the bright and talented? We are only as good as the talent we draw into the creative industries.
  4. Then the Creative Coalition must create programmes to drive growth in the creative industry e.g. funds that could be accessed by young creatives that may want to start up a company -a venture capital fund dedicated to the creative industries. These initiatives exist in other areas like IT, but we do not have any for the creative industries. We must look at issues like clustering - the aggregation of resources to make this industry fly.
  5. Then the Creative Coalition must promote awareness - and make some noise. It would help in stimulating demand, and increasing customer savvy about home grown design.

The Creative Coalition must happen. Only last week we briefed the Office of the Presidency, towards creating the platforms for it. We've started the charge - join the movement!

Lets design a better future. - Ravi Naidoo