7-8 JUNE 2017 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Investing in creativity, the future is now

Investing in creativity, the future is now

From human development, to inclusive growth and sustainable societies

EDD17 - Replay - Investing in creativity, the future is now

special event
Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 09:00 to 10:00

Key points

• Cultural expression is a form of societal glue that acts as a key to development.

• Red tape in obtaining funding puts off young artists who are disinclined to fill in a lot of forms without being sure of approval.

• There are now artists who have decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle the problem themselves if they do not have access to adequate funding.

• The private sector should consider culture and creative industries a profitable economic sector, as it creates work for many people.

• Economic aspects alone should not dominate the societal importance of cultural and creative development.


The intrinsic links between culture and development efforts have been recognised for many years. Considered a “societal glue”, cultural goods and the corresponding creative industries can have a significant impact on countries’ economic growth, environment, equality, security, education and governance.

As both a driver and enabler of sustainable growth and employment, promoting cultural expression through creative industries is now regarded as indispensable for achieving the EU’s strategic development aims.

But while this change in thinking within the development community is welcome, it does not mask that fact that the same painful problems remain: access to funding is still a significant obstacle for artists and those working in the creative industries.

The red tape involved can be off-putting. Young artists have to spend considerable time filling in forms without being sure they will win approval for their projects. Clearly a change in approach is needed when a problem as seemingly trivial as the lack of a qualified sound or lighting engineer can be a barrier to launching creative projects.

In Africa, for example, some people feel that international funding structures can both inhibit creativity and contribute to a talent drain. Individual artists are forced to go abroad to allow their creativity, whether in writing, music or the performing arts, to flourish. Some of these artists return later on, others never do. Their loss is significant, considering the associated employment and education opportunities they can provide in the technical and production fields.

Some artists have now decided to take the bull by the horns and tackle the problem themselves if they do not have access to adequate funding. Award-winning Malian singer, songwriter and guitarist, Rokia Traoré, has used her own success to fund artists, helping pay for childcare and allowing mothers to get back to work.

But development in creative industries must go beyond subsidies and include private investment. This can offer a healthy return, which is not always recognised by the business world.

But stakeholders warn that the old ideas of return on investment need to be re-framed to include the deeply human experience that the trade in cultural goods entails. The creative industries are not just selling simple products – they reflect ways of life, value systems, traditions and beliefs.

Creating the right investment environment is important. One possible way forward is for donor organisations to act as a kind of guarantor, encouraging private stakeholders to take risks on projects that might otherwise not meet the threshold for mainstream finance.

Economic aspects alone should not be allowed to dominate the societal importance of cultural and creative development, though; the stakes are too high for that, particularly when cultural industries can help resolve conflict and foster dialogue between opposing groups.

As this new investing environment develops, the warning from stakeholders is simple: rules should not be imposed on artists that inhibit creativity and productivity.


While talk now centres on private sector involvement in developing cultural programmes, the old idea of return on investment needs to be revised. Investors in culture must be aware that art is a laboratory – there will always be a result, even if it is not the expected one. Rules should not be imposed that limit creativity.

Organised by

    Annabelle van Nieuwenhuyse
    TV and radio presenter
    Chris Burns
    Rokia Traoré
    Fondation Passerelle
    Felwine Sarr
    Maître de Conférence Agrégé, Directeur de l’UFR de Sciences Economiques et de Gestion
    Université Gaston Berger Saint-Louis du Sénégal
    Mario Giro
    Vice minister of Foreign Affair and International Cooperation
    Agenzia Italiana per la Cooperazione allo Sviluppo
    Firmin Edouard Matoko
    Assistant Director-general, Africa Department
    Jean-Louis Ville
    Acting Director of Human Development and Migration
    European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development
Photo gallery

Password for download : EDD2017