Creative Economies Africa

CoRE Research Agenda

The CoRE aims to address key intersecting issues of culture, innovation, technology, sustainability, and policy to support creative economies (CE) development in Africa through interdisciplinary knowledge generated on and within the continent.

Africa’s cultural influence on a global scale, combined with extensive informal economy engagement alongside a growing youth and middle class, enables us to examine opportunities for broad-based socio-economic impact. Africa’s CE have also reached global attention, often displaying very different operating models, finance and employment modes, therefore questioning our current understanding of CE and highlighting its potential to shape future development discourses beyond the economy. Despite its innovativeness and transformational potential – G20 has recognised CE potential to contribute 10% of global GDP by 2030 and lead efforts towards sustainable development, economic resilience and technological innovation (UNCTAD 2021) – the sector is hampered by gaps in talent, infrastructure, technology and regulation and its development is hindered by a lack of research and investment in innovation. So far, our understanding of CE has been led by and focused on the Global North, thus limiting our understanding of global CE dynamics.

As CE span the economy, politics and society, this presents significant opportunities for interdisciplinary research and collaborative investigation which have so far been underexplored. The cluster would, therefore, be in a unique position to reshape and change the CE research field as the first North-South research cluster in this area. It would provide a unique platform to understand and explain CE value, models and impact on interconnected contemporary African issues (SACO 2022; Snowball et al., 2023) and global concerns of cultures, innovation, technology, sustainability and policy. In doing so, the Cluster will identify, empower and protect the value of creativity for inclusive and sustainable growth and development.   

This CoRE specifically addresses three core research themes:  

 1. Sustainable and inclusive CE business models and markets underpinned by technology (led by Rhodes University)

This theme enables a better understanding of financial and business models of operation, nationally, regionally and internationally, to support CE development in Africa. It will explore how low disposable income and public finance might hinder opportunities and the expanding youth and middle-classes may provide new opportunities; new financial models being explored in Africa (i.e. HEVA), stretching across international finance to small/independent producers; the role of rapidly expanding digital and technological platforms and; the role of platform economies and social impact finance within the sector.

 2) Innovation, creative development and protection for cultural and creative producers underpinned by sustainability (led by University of Lagos)

The theme will capture innovative and sustainable practices of cultural and creative producers in Africa, to understand how they can address domestic, regional and continental markets and connect with global production and value chains. It will also provide a better understanding of issues of precarity and informal work (Joffe and Mukanga-Majachani 2023), and innovative practices and platforms that might shape new work models. This will include an examination of models of ownership, adoption and dependence on technology (social media, digital streaming, payment and retail platforms), authentic and localised sustainability practices, Intellectual Property Rights and processes of value creation and value capture, considering implications on production and consumption within and beyond Africa.

3) Heritage, communities, socio-cultural value and development models underpinned by inclusivity (led by King’s College London)

The theme will examine how CE shifts the understanding of development in Europe and Africa. It will critically consider how interdependencies across economic, social, cultural and environmental value can underpin inclusive transformation and change alongside heritage preservation and community development. This is possible because value within CE is impacted by both autonomous (non-economic, aesthetic and cultural considerations) and heteronomous (economic, market-related) forces (Brydges et al. 2018). CE are also at the forefront of a better understanding of circular economies, sustainable practices and innovations addressing environmental concerns and are strongly intertwined with the objectives of the sustainable development goals (UNESCO, 2019).

Across these themes, key interconnected cornerstones of the research work and analysis are: CULTURES, INNOVATION, TECHNOLOGY, SUSTAINABILITY and POLICY. Our research will value both the diverse CULTURES of the continent and the plurality of cultures (and cultural perspectives) brought by the research team.  We will reflect on how INNOVATION happens and can be fostered, considering new approaches that indigenous communities can bring to the field, particularly regarding SUSTAINABILITY and the role that TECHNOLOGY plays. Finally, we will focus on POLICY, to understand how policy can drive change, and identify and contribute to new regulatory frameworks that might support CE development.

The CoRE research will embed three further practices for increased impact. Firstly, empowering the role of higher education in CE, i.e. incentivising platforms for HE (research and graduates) to collaborate with local communities and industries to support CE development in Africa. SACO – a collaborative model linking public policy making with evidence and research from academia, is an example of how CE research can have impacts beyond the campus.  Secondly, building bridges and networks across EU and Africa, i.e. acknowledging formal and informal inter-Africa and African-European cultural markets, particularly the roles of diasporic networks and international cultural institutions in these cultural flows. These have a significant impact on how the CE works to address historical legacies, development, socioeconomic transition, cultural and creative exchanges and equitable relationships. Finally, engaging with UNESCO SDGs: key foci will be Goal 5: Gender Equality; Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth; Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. This CoRE is a pivotal arena for interdisciplinary knowledge building as the identified themes need to be researched in relation to economic, social and cultural value creation, consumption and exploitation. The essential collaboration between researchers in creative fields, economics, business studies, law, anthropology and other social sciences and humanities will be enhanced by researchers in the humanities but also experts on technology and infrastructure development.