The state of the Africa creative economy: Thoughts on the Creative Vibrancy Index for Africa

Last week (27 April), the Creative Economy Practice at CcHUB launched the Creative Vibrancy Index for Africa (CVIA or the Index) which comprehensively ranks African cities based on their support for arts, culture and creative industries. The CVIA ranks 12 African cities: Accra, Cairo, Dakar, Dar-Es-Salaam, Harare, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Lagos, Luanda, Marrakech, Nairobi, and Tunis on their respective creative vibrancy defined as “the capacity of a place to enable cultural and creative expression and cultural participation by supporting creative talent and activity”. Johannesburg ranked the highest overall in terms of creative vibrancy.

This post presents an overview of and thoughts on the Index which was “constructed” by identifying 22 indicators, 8 policy areas and 3 pillars.

Here is an overview of and findings from the Index: 

The 3 pillars identified for the Index were cultural vibrancy; enabling environment and creative economy.

Cultural vibrancy was considered through the lens of 2 policy areas viz (1) Venues and facilities (i.e., What venues and facilities exist for creation and consumption of cultural and creative goods?); (2) Participation and attractiveness. For venues and facilities, the CVIA borrowed from the European Commission’s Cultural and Creative Cities Monitor but contextualised it for Africa by including informal venues where cultural events are consumed. For participation and attractiveness, data sources such as sites and landmarks; museums and galleries data; cinemas data, theaters, concerts, etc. all from Google Earth, survey and desk review. For the 12 cities ranked, Cairo is a clear winner in cultural vibrancy followed by Tunis, Johannesburg and Lagos. 
...creative Kats from various cities

Enabling environment was considered through the lens of 4 policy areas: (1) Openness and trust (i.e., Is the city tolerant of diversity? Is it welcoming? Does it facilitate free flow of ideas? etc.); (2) Governance quality (Is there an elaborate national cultural policy in place to support creativity?); (3) International connections (think presence of local and international connectivity in terms of transport networks which enable the flow of visitors); (4) Censorship (Is there freedom of expression? Freedom of movement? Equality before the courts? Security of private property?). Johannesburg ranked the highest by far for providing an enabling environment for creative vibrancy while the rest of the 11 cities scored less than 50% with Kinshasa as the lowest (13.5%). 

Creative economy: The indicators here are drawn from 2 policy areas namely education/capacity (arts and humanities ranking of universities? Knowledge diffusion?) and IP and innovation (percentage of patents by origin per GDP with data form the Global Innovation Index; local films made. [NB: Cinematograph films registration system exist in most of the countries where these cites are located but the report does not indicate whether such registries and/or registers were consulted]. Lagos ranked highest here followed by Luanda, Cairo, Accra, Johannesburg and Dar Es Salaam. Tunis scored the lowest here. 

The 8 policy areas that define creative vibrancy according to the CVIA and the cities that ranked highest: 
  1. Venues and Facilities: Lagos 
  2. Participation and attractiveness: Marrakesh 
  3. Openness and Trust: Johannesburg 
  4. Governance quality: Johannesburg 
  5. International connections: Johannesburg 
  6. Censorship: Dakar 
  7. Intellectual property and innovation: Lagos 
  8. Education/capacity: Luanda 
Cities performed differently across these policy areas and the CVIA suggests that the need to learn from each other in the areas of weakness. 

Results by indicator: 

The following indicators had low performance across cities: sites and landmarks, cultural policy (does the city or country have a national cultural policy document?), local films and entertainment and media market.

Some thoughts 
  • Africa context: One key value of the CVIA is not just its focus on specific African cities (Africa not being a country). It is its contextualising for Africa across board in the way that interprets resources from outside the African continent and yet ensuring data quality in terms of data that can be validated and verified.
  • Use of patent filings by origin to assess the IP policy area: Given that the Index focused on the creative economy, this Kat thinks that copyright registration data may have been more apt than data from patent filings. In this regard, the copyright statute in most of the countries where the ranked cities are located makes provisions for the relevant IP office to accept registration of copyright works even if it's only for cinematograph films as is the case with South Africa. As an example, both Nigeria and Kenya expanded the scope of registration of copyright works and the required the maintenance of a database and registry for such registration in the recent amendment of their respective copyright statutes.
  • Value of publicly accessible data: As indicated in the CVIA, data selection was guided by considerations such as coverage, timeliness (2010-2021), accessibility, relevance and quality. Google Earth proved a valuable resource in this regard.
  • Online surveys and translation into various languages: The CVIA indicates that publicly available data were further validated and verified through surveys. These surveys were translated to Portuguese, French, Arabic and Swahili. While this is laudable, it still excludes those who are unable to read and write (in those languages). In future iterations of the Index, there may be value in recorded survey questions provided alongside a platform for respondents to record and send their responses. Innovative or asking for too much? 
  • National data as "city data": The Index indicates that in extracting data from internet and pre-existing, publicly available sources, data available for a given country was interpreted as data for the ranked city located within that country. Example, Nigeria data as Lagos data. This was done with the acknowledgement that “national administrations continue to perform duties that are legally recognized as falling under the authority of sub-national governments”. See p.16. This Kat agrees the CVIA's assessment is accurate. This could be problematic for investors wishing to invest and/or do business in a particular city. For other cities in a given country, this skews their attractiveness to investors who may not consider them viable. One lesson to be learnt from a national cultural policy administration perspective could be to record creative economy data across state or provincial lines even if it is then collated at the national level.

In all, this Kat considers the Index a valuable tool for policymakers, investors and practitioners in Africa's creative economy and awaits the outcomes from its varied uses. 

The state of the Africa creative economy: Thoughts on the Creative Vibrancy Index for Africa The state of the Africa creative economy: Thoughts on the Creative Vibrancy Index for Africa Reviewed by Chijioke Okorie on Sunday, April 30, 2023 Rating: 5

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