According to UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Outlook 2022, launched on October 7th at the 3rd World Congress on Creative Economy in Bali, Indonesia, the creative economy presents a viable development opportunity for all nations, especially developing economies.
UNCTAD defines creative industries as those involved in the creation, production, and distribution of goods and services that rely on creativity and intellectual capital as primary inputs. These industries encompass knowledge-based activities that yield both tangible goods and intangible artistic or intellectual services, possessing creative content, economic value, and market-oriented objectives.
The report highlights that while creative services exports significantly surpass those of creative goods, developing countries still face challenges in exporting these services. Additionally, a substantial data gap in creative trade exists between developed and developing nations.
UNCTAD’s Secretary-General, Rebeca Grynspan, emphasizes that despite facing significant challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, geopolitical tensions, and cost-of-living crises, the creative economy remains essential for sustainable development.
The trade of creative goods and services brings increasing revenue to countries, with services playing a dominant role. In 2020, creative goods and services represented 3% of total merchandise exports and 21% of total services exports. Notably, developing economies export more creative goods than developed ones.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, creative goods exports experienced a decline of 12.5% in 2020, while exports of all goods only decreased by 7.2%. However, the preliminary data suggests that creative goods exports began to recover in 2021, surpassing 2019 levels. Conversely, creative services exports showed resilience during the pandemic, decreasing by only 1.8% in 2020, while all services exports fell by 20%.
The report underscores the importance of South-South trade in creative goods, which has nearly doubled in the past two decades, representing 40.5% of creative exports by developing economies in 2020. Developing countries, however, face obstacles in participating in services trade, including creative services, due to a lack of fundamental skills, infrastructure, and trade restrictions.
UNCTAD highlights case studies from various countries, such as Azerbaijan, Canada, Colombia, Georgia, and Mexico, demonstrating the economic contributions of their respective creative industries. Nonetheless, the lack of harmonized definitions, methodologies, and data remains a challenge in measuring the creative economy’s impact. UNCTAD calls for multidisciplinary policy responses in areas like education, digital infrastructure, and legal frameworks to enhance the development impacts of the creative sector, particularly in developing nations.
The report also points out that emerging technologies, particularly Industry 4.0, are fundamentally transforming some creative industries, with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerating the shift towards e-commerce and digital platforms. However, global digital divides persist, posing inclusivity challenges, particularly for developing countries that need to benefit from the digital dimension of the creative economy. To address these issues and foster services-led diversification in developing economies, better and more disaggregated data are needed.