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Creativity is key to economic growth in developing countries, suggests new report

Human creativity has the potential to generate income, jobs and export earnings. The Creative Economy Report 2008 finds that the creative economy has already begun to do this in the advanced economies of the world. However, it also seems to be a feasible option for developing countries.

The report, a joint initiative by five United Nations organisations, includes key academic insight from Dr Andy Pratt in the Department of Geography and Environment, LSE, and is the first comprehensive study to present the United Nations perspective on this emerging topic.

The 'creative economy' is an evolving concept based on the potential of 'creative assets' to generate socio-economic growth and development. The term 'creative economy' is more or less the same as the more common terms in the UK, the creative economy/cultural industries. The report claims that if effective public policies are put in place, the creative economy could generate development dimensions, offering new opportunities for developing countries to leapfrog into high-growth areas of the world economy.

According to the report, it is clear that developed countries still dominate the global market for creative products. Nonetheless, many developing-country products are already benefiting from the creative industry boom, particularly in Asia. Unfortunately, however, despite the richness of their cultural diversity and the abundance of creative talent, the large majority of developing countries are not yet fully benefiting from the enormous potential of their creative economies to improve development gains.

The report uses a series of case studies to illustrate how the potential of developing countries is being overlooked. For example, in Nigeria music plays an important part in daily life, however, evidence of formal production and circulation of recorded music products is extremely limited.

Key findings of the report include:

  • The lack of a clear framework for understanding and analysing the creative economy
  • A lack of data about the performance of the creative economy
  • That the role of governments is crucial to nurture a solid, self-sustainable creative economy
  • The lack of institutional capacity to support development of the creative industries in the developing world
  • The fact that the developed world has enormous 'first mover' advantages in the field of creative goods and services, making it more difficult for developing countries to compete in global markets for these products

Dr Andy Pratt, one of the report's contributors, said: 'This report offers, for the first time, concrete measures of the significance of the creative economy not only in the centres of the developed world, but also in those of the developing world. This report will act as a 'wake up call' for many nations who have dismissed the creative economy as insignificant: here we can gauge the true scale of the creative economy.'

'The report highlights how on one hand the developing world has considerable strengths in the creative economy, and on the other hand how there are significant imbalances in power over the control of systems of creative product distribution and copyright payments that are holding back further development.'

Building on and developing ideas pioneered by, amongst others, UK policy makers and academics, the report takes the first steps towards clarifying the basic concepts necessary for a proper understanding of the creative economy, putting forward objective evidence, providing some analytical tools and suggesting directions for policy action. It aims to assist developing countries to harness their creative economies and to maximise development gains. Countries, therefore, are encouraged to make strategic choices to strengthen their creative economies.

Click here to download a copy of the Creative Economy Report 2008|



Dr Andy Pratt, Department of Geography and Environment, LSE, on 020 7955 7588 or at a.c.pratt@lse.ac.uk|

Nicole Gallivan, LSE Press Office, on 020 7955 7582 or at n.gallivan@lse.ac.uk|


The report is a collaborative effort that was led by UNCTAD and the UNDP Special Unit for South-South Cooperation and that included a team of experts from the collaborating agencies - UNCTAD, UNDP, UNESCO, WIPO and ITC - as well as international consultants.

Dr Pratt is currently teaching a new MSc level course at LSE entitled 'cultural and creative industries'. The course, which is the first of its kind at LSE, draws students from across the social sciences.

9 May 2008