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Creative Industries South Africa

Global Development South Africa at Red Yellow Blue (RYB)

Creative Industries in South Africa: An Engine for Urban Regeneration

The concept of “creative cities” enjoys widespread popularity. Oluwayemisi Adebola Oyekunle explains how the creative industries are contributing to urban revitalisation in South Africa.

South African urban areas are in trouble due to societal challenges such as rapid population growth, poverty, badly maintained roads, traffic congestion, poor public transport, drug abuse, unemployment, pollution, and service delivery protests.

In the past two decades, the role of creative industries in economic regeneration, job creation, and urban development has been a point of debate. The creative industries can be a medium for the government to reposition South Africa in the global economy. By helping to build the competitive efforts of creative goods and services, and by promoting creativity and innovation together with the industry, government policies can enhance sustainable development, social inclusion, and job creation.
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South Africa is a middle-income emerging market with an abundant supply of natural resources; well-developed financial, legal, communications, energy, and transport sectors; and a stock exchange that is Africa’s largest and among the top 20 in the world.

Economic growth has decelerated in recent years, slowing to an estimated 0.7% in 2017. Unemployment, poverty, and inequality – among the highest in the world – remain a challenge. Official unemployment is roughly 27% of the workforce, and runs significantly higher among black youth. Even though the country’s modern infrastructure supports a relatively efficient distribution of goods to major urban centers throughout the region, unstable electricity supplies retard growth. Eskom, the state-run power company, is building three new power stations and is installing new power demand management programs to improve power grid reliability but has been plagued with accusations of mismanagement and corruption and faces an increasingly high debt burden.

South Africa’s economic policy has focused on controlling inflation while empowering a broader economic base; however, the country faces structural constraints that also limit economic growth, such as skills shortages, declining global competitiveness, and frequent work stoppages due to strike action. The government faces growing pressure from urban constituencies to improve the delivery of basic services to low-income areas, to increase job growth, and to provide university level-education at affordable prices. Political infighting among South Africa’s ruling party and the volatility of the rand risks economic growth. International investors are concerned about the country’s long-term economic stability; in late 2016, most major international credit ratings agencies downgraded South Africa’s international debt to junk bond status.