Strategic imperative: the UAE looks for a national approach to the creative economy

The newly publicised National Strategy for Cultural and Creative Industries comes with a rash of words about laying down “a strong foundation to enhance the contribution of the cultural and creative sector to achieve sustainable development” with the goal of “enhancing the UAE’s position as a global destination to attract creatives and talents and enable an ecosystem ensuring sustainability, efficiency and quality”.

You want more? Of course you do. “It highlights the UAE’s pivotal role in empowering and inspiring creative human competencies and contributes to the UAE being an attractive destination for innovators and creators in the creative fields …”

In part the National Strategy obviously aims to provide an umbrella for various efforts at local levels and in different federal institutions. Several UAE ministries have skin in this particular game – Education, Economy, Industry and the Statistics Center among them. And each of the seven emirates has its own culture/creativity bodies, of which Dubai Culture is clearly the most active in terms of strategic response.

But the press conference hosted a couple of days ago by the Ministry of Youth and Culture (which seems to be taking the lead at the federal level) had very little detail to go along with the profusion of words. What we know is that strategic indicators for the next 10 years have been developed, though the measure for only one of them has been made public – the contribution of the cultural and creative industries sector will rise to 5 percent of GDP.

The Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, which seems to be a parallel track, has the same target but aims to hit it sooner – taking the contribution of the creative industries to the GDP of Dubai from 2.6 percent in 2020 to 5 percent by 2025.

Other targets for the National Strategy, which have definitely not been specified, include increasing the volume of exports of cultural and creative products and services; raising the average income in this sector; raising the average spend by families on cultural and creative goods and services; doubling the number of businesses in the sector and doubling the number of jobs they provide.

Again, the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy has more detail in its own plans – to more than double the number of Dubai-based creative companies from 8,300 in 2020 to 15,000 by 2025, and to double the number of creative jobs in the emirate from 70,000 in 2020 to 140,000 by 2025.

To achieve its goals, the National Strategy apparently has 40 initiatives in three areas – 16 under the label ‘talents and creatives’, 10 for ‘professionals and business environment’ and 14 for ‘enablement of the business environment’. We’ve been told nothing more – not even what the labels actually mean, let alone what these initiatives are and how or when they will be delivered.

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