Creative and Culture

Why the cultural and creative industries (CIs) are an overlooked pillar in the ongoing Ethiopian development process?


The scope of Ethiopia’s development initiatives primarily focuses on infrastructure development, encompassing the construction of buildings and roads. Regrettably, the significance of CIs has been sidelined in this pursuit.

Definition of CIs
No comprehensive definition is given yet to the concept of ‘cultural’ and ‘creative’ activities. For the sake of this article let’s start with  (UNESCO 2006: 3) definition: ‘CIs’ refers to industries which combine the creation, production and commercialization of creative contents which are intangible and cultural in nature. The contents are typically protected by copyright and they can take the form of a good or a service. Creative industries generally include printing, publishing and multimedia, audio-visual, phonographic and cinematographic productions as well as crafts and design.

The Benefits of CIs

The rise of CIs offers opportunities for sustainable development, including economic growth, social progress, human development, potential to create jobs and generate income, benefiting diverse groups within the population, such as women, youth, artists, and marginalized minorities, including indigenous peoples. Additionally, CIs contribute to social inclusion, GDP growth, and poverty reduction.

Why Cis neglected in Ethiopia
Ethiopia possesses a wealth of cultural diversity, with its core being the CIs, as stated by UNESCO (2005: 3-4). However, these CIs have remained largely untapped in the country due to various factors, such as a lack of understanding or recognition of culture’s contribution to development, an unclear or inappropriate cultural policy, and inadequate capacity, among others.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism (MoCT) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE) has formulated a  National Cultural Policy in 2016, which presents a promising beginning. This Policy appreciates, perhaps for the first time, the significance of the Cis sector in fostering human, economic, and social development. Nevertheless, a well-designed cultural policy on paper will prove futile if it is not firmly embedded in the essential strategic measures, often referred to as pillars, that are imperative for ensuring sustainable progress in the cultural sector.


In order to effectively use Cis in development process, the initial stage involves the establishment of an operational national classification framework.  As astutely noted, the absence of a standardized national classification system in Ethiopia poses a significant hindrance to: (a) adopting appropriate statistical methodologies to gauge the potential value or significant contributions that CIs may offer to the development of other sectors, such as human, economic, and social sectors, (b) establishing a national statistical database encompassing cultural industries and related activities like creations, productions, and distributions, (c) facilitating access to diverse cultural expressions and markets, (d) bolstering policy implementation, implementing structural changes, establishing proper management and governance systems for the sector, (e) appropriately assigning trained professionals.

It is imperative, therefore, to address the critical issues stemming from the absence of necessary prerequisites crucial for the successful implementation of policies promoting cultural industries in the country.


Zelalem Teferi


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