This week saw the wrap up of a British Council-funded project in Cairo that aimed at promoting the creative economy.
The term was coined in 2001 and is defined by the UN as including the creative industries such as advertising, architecture, arts and crafts, design, fashion, film, video, photography, music, the performing arts, publishing, research and development, software, computer games, electronic publishing, and TV and radio.
Dubbed “Developing Inclusive and Creative Economies,” the project was launched in 2018 to stimulate sectors of the economy that mix culture, creativity, technology and entrepreneurship by supporting projects that improve the lives of less-privileged members of society.
It was implemented by the British Council in Cairo in collaboration with the European Union and the European Union National Institutes of Culture (UNIC).
The one-day conference marking the end of the project brought more than 250 artists, academics and practitioners of the creative industries together to shed light on the creative economy in Egypt and identify the challenges and opportunities that had been seen during the duration of the project.
Wissam Al-Beih, country director of the Zurich-based Drosos Foundation, said that human development could be promoted by using creative tools. She gave the example of the Drosos-funded film Sargi Margi which underscores the importance of gender equality in education and ways of providing girls with educational opportunities.
Drosos helps to make such short films in cooperation with prominent filmmakers in order to support the rights of socially disadvantaged children and people with physical disabilities through national-awareness programmes.
The $30 million British Council project aimed at bringing together key players from the government, academia, and relevant organisations to promote the creative economy and provided grants to entrepreneurs to start projects. The projects targeted aimed to empower women and girls, create youth employment, and support people with disabilities.
Al-Beih said that the government needed to be more supportive in developing the creative economy in Egypt and should not restrict itself to monitoring civil society. “We need more support to facilitate procedures and avoid bureaucracy,” she noted.
The importance of appropriate policies and the provision of information were looked at in one session at the conference. Emphasising the role of the Ministry of Culture in supporting the creative economy in Egypt, head of the ministry’s Cultural Development Fund Fathi Abdel-Wahab explained that the ministry had revived over a dozen cultural centres and supported handicrafts in 20 villages in the Upper Egyptian Minya governorate and had introduced the international Prince Charles Diploma for handicrafts design that had been implemented by the ministry for six years.
One of the initiatives showcased was that of Osama Al-Ghazali, a young man who had been mapping the handicrafts industries in Egypt since 2012. He had discovered that leather handicrafts practised on the Red Sea coast had been disappearing, with only nine of 27 crafts surviving in Halayeb and Shalateen and only 20 of 34 in the inland area of Assiut.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 16 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.