Oman must nurture start-ups and SMEs in creative sector

Economy is not just about money alone; it has a beautiful creative aspect with social and cultural implications. However, it took a while for governments to take cognizance of the real power and scope of creative economy. Today, globally, creative industries of all hues are on a roll; and the future, by all accounts, belongs to them. Why? The answer is another question, posed by John Kampfner, the CEO of the Creative Industries Federation: Which other sector (than creative industry) can simultaneously enhance social mobility, smoothen out societal rifts, drive exports, strengthen the economy and define a nation in the international context?

UNCTAD defines creative economy as an emerging concept dealing with the interface between creativity, culture, economics and technology in a contemporary world dominated by images, sounds, texts and symbols. Hope it’s sufficient to engage the intellectually obsessed.
Creative economy can flourish only if there’s an enabling environment for innovative ideas to mature through interactions and inputs from academic, research and cultural institutions, supported by a strong technological framework, a positive entrepreneurial culture and the right governmental policies and incentives.
The creative economy — a prime driver of growth and one of the most rapidly growing sectors of the world economy — is highly transformative in terms of income generation, job creation and export earnings, and embraces diverse sectors including advertising, broadcasting, architecture, technology, arts and crafts, design, fashion, food, music, videogames and publishing. Both large corporations as well as SMEs come under its fold.
The World Economic Forum observes that as economies develop from agriculture and manufacturing, new clusters focusing on creative projects will come up in advanced and emerging economies, offering ample scope of entrepreneurship. Also, more youngsters will be able to choose careers that align with their talents and hobbies. This is why analysts expect the creative economy to assume an increasingly assertive role in sustaining progress in a volatile environment.
The creative industries sector accounts for 7 per cent of the world’s GDP, with an 8.7 per cent annual growth. Beyond driving up the share of developing countries in global trade, the sector can directly benefit marginalised communities by generating income, creating jobs and empowering artists and other stakeholders. UNCTAD’s Creative Economy Network is an initiative to boost the sector by facilitating sharing of knowledge and best practices in the creative industry, and strategic alliances and networking among governments, businesses and societies.
The size of creative economies has grown over the years.
For instance, UK’s creative industries contribute almost £90 billion net to GDP, and accounts for one in 11 jobs. In the European Union, the cultural and creative sectors employ almost 7 million people (3 per cent of total employment), while creative goods account for 4.3 per cent of its external exports.
Interestingly, the creative economy is building synergistic relations with the tourism industry, resulting in the development of products, experiences and markets that give rise to innovative models of creative tourism based on intangible culture and ingenuity.
Meanwhile, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has recorded a fast growth rate in its creative industries, at more than 10 per cent annually. Kuwait makes for an interesting study, with over 35,000 people employed in the country’s creative sector, accounting for 24 per cent of the value of the non-oil manufacturing sector and 72 per cent of the business services’ sector.
Now the crucial question: What’s the status of the Sultanate’s creative economy? It’s crucial because Oman has all the fundamental ingredients needed for the creative industry to take off in style, and boost the Sultanate’s economic might.
Oman started thinking about creative economy way back in 2013, when a symposium on ‘The Role of Policies and Strategies in the Development of Crafts, Arts and Creative Industries in Oman’, stressed the need to develop a creative economy with appropriate vision and strategy. It also highlighted the importance of factoring in the creative economy while planning cities and investing in infrastructure. The event turned the focus 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. 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.
For instance, though Oman has great institutions such as SQU, The Research Council and applied science colleges, they are yet 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. It’s also necessary that a supportive entrepreneurial framework is established to nurture as many start-ups and SMEs as possible in the creative industry sector.