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Creative industries can fuel Oman’s economic diversification

Promising sector: ‘Oman can aspire to establish itself as a regional hub for the creative industry’
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MUSCAT: Industries established around culture and creativity have the potential to contribute significantly to the economic diversification objectives of the Omani government, according to a key report published recently by the EU-GCC Dialogue on Economic Diversification Project, an initiative funded of the European Union.

An overview of this promising new economy, underpinned by cultural and creative activities, was outlined by a team of officials from the EU project, during a visit to the Sultanate of Oman last month.

During the introductory meeting, Douglas Aitkenhead, Team Leader - EU-GCC Dialogue on Economic Diversification Project, stressed that cultural and creative sectors are important for ensuring the continued development of societies and are at the heart of the creative economy.

Knowledge-intensive and based on individual creativity and talent, they generate considerable economic wealth, he said. They also contribute to above-average growth and create jobs, particularly for young people, and are critical to a shared sense of identity, culture, and values in every country, he noted.

In the European Union, for example, the creative economy’s contribution to the Union’s GDP was estimated at 4.2 per cent in 2014, with 7 million people employed in this diverse industry. It encompasses everything from books, newspapers and magazines to music, performing arts, TV, film and radio, as well as video games, visual arts, architecture, advertising.

To Oman’s credit, efforts to jumpstart the growth of a creative economy began in 2013 when a symposium on the theme, ‘The Role of Policies and Strategies in the Development of Crafts, Arts and Creative Industries in Oman’. The forum highlighted the importance of factoring in the creative economy while planning cities and investing in infrastructure. Further, it focused on the ways, mechanisms and significance of developing creative industries, especially SMEs, and nurturing Omani talents in the creative sector.

“Considering the government’s consistent focus on development driven by sustainability, technology and innovation, and availability of a promising pool of young creative talents, Oman can hit the road to unprecedented growth if it strategically brings up its creative industry,” the EU report said.

“More importantly, the country can very well aspire to establish itself as a regional hub for the creative industry. At the same time, it’s essential that Oman’s policymakers focus on strengthening the basics.” The EU report cited in this regard the presence of prestigious institutions, such as Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), The Research Council, and applied science colleges, which have the potential to transform themselves into “anchor institutions or idea hubs that function as platforms for fresh talents to interact and generate economic activities in the creative field.

Besides, the Ministry of Heritage and Tourism is actively supporting folk troupes to record their works, and promote these performances locally and internationally as well. “The Sultanate believes that creating such opportunities is very important to preserve the Omani heritage, capacity building, maintenance and transfer of culture, generate income and employment opportunities,” the EU report stated.

According to the EU report, Oman and the wider GCC represent a large and dynamic market for European culture and creative industries' products and services.

“The region's young and affluent population has a growing appetite for creative content and experiences, and the governments of the GCC countries have recognized the importance of developing their culture and creative industries as key drivers of economic growth and diversification,” it noted.

Specific opportunities for the culture and creative industries in the GCC include: Film and TV production; Design and architecture; Music and performing arts; and Fashion and luxury goods.

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