18 Jan Development of cluster initiatives in the cultural and creative industries in the south of the Mediterranean
“The Cultural and Creative Industries as a driver for a sustainable development and territorial growth”
The starting point: creativity as the development engine
In 2014, the United Nations agency UNIDO, in collaboration with the European Union and other entities, initiated a program for the development of the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCI) in 7 Southern Mediterranean countries. This program was structured in 2 phases: a first phase of mapping, which sought to know the existing competencies in terms of CCI and understand their degree of ‘clusterisation’, and a second phase in which several development initiatives would be developed.
Seven countries participated in the program (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan). The mapping of these territories yielded a total of 144 clusters identified in the field of CCI (in addition to many other non-clustered economic realities). Such profusion was to be expected, considering the spectacular historical, tangible and intangible heritage existing in these countries. The numerous skills and abilities identified opened a word of possibilities in terms of economic development, particularly in rural territories.
Reinforcing the competitiveness: allying creativity, heritage and markets
A “bottom-up” selection process allowed the selection of 14 clusters, 2 in each country. Following came the development of initiatives to reinforce the competitiveness:
- Copperware in Constantine (Algeria)
- Jewelry in Batna (Algeria)
- Leather in Cairo (Egypt)
- Design in Cairo (Egypt)
- Fashion in Amman (Jordan)
- Ceramics in Amman (Jordan)
- Furniture in Tripoli (Lebanon)
- Jewelry in Bourj Hammoud, Beirut (Lebanon)
- Home textile in Casablanca (Morocco)
- Decoration in Marrakesh (Morocco)
- Furniture in Nablus (Palestine)
- Crafts in Bethlehem (Palestine)
- Art de table in Nabeul (Tunisia)
- Mosaic in El Jem (Tunisia)
Each initiative, of a standard duration of 7-8 months, allowed to align the different agents of the value chain and the environment of each cluster (producers, support entities, institutions, etc.), as well as defining the strategic options that best adapted to the typology of companies present in each cluster. This leaded to concrete actions, such as the design of new products, new trainings, the opening of new markets, the increase of exports and the sophistication of the management of the companies.
THE PROJECT SUCCESFUL MILESTONES
The use of the cluster approach in the field of the CCI rapidly proved to be very effective, since it allowed to build on the local specificities of each territory achieving both the preservation and safeguard of the historical heritage of each place and the valorization of this heritage as a unique, differentiating element of the companies, positioning them in more interesting market segments.
In terms of business development, and at the aggregate level, at present, the following milestones can be announced (among others) (source: UNIDO):
- Communication & Valorization of the existing skills through dissemination activities that have reached about 2M people. Creation of various communication supports for each business and location.
- Development of support policies in collaboration with +60 local institutions. Preparation of recommendations in terms of public policy.
- Adoption of modern technologies from the companies’ side: creation of 4 HUBS or design centers, including the installation of equipment.
- Brand creation: development of 11 new collections. Advice on brand creation.
- Expansion of commercial channels: participation in various fairs in Europe and the US. 9 collaboration agreements with first-line distribution brands. Increase in exports of € 500K
- Improved access to capital: additional € 4.3M to the funds provided by the program.
- Creation of +337 direct jobs.
Beyond this global summary, each of the clusters has its own list of successes. Such elements range from actions in terms of raw material (improvement of supply, synergies, improvement of quality, etc.), integration of new design capacities, development of brands and communication tools, improvements in the access to markets with greater added value, transversal measures, etc. In some cases the impact of the project has been particularly strong, as for example in Nabeul (Tunisia), where the turnover of the cluster went from 10 to 18M dinars in 2 years, and the profit margins of the ceramics companies increased 50% (source: Office National de l’Artisanat).
The program, of 5 years, continued to receive support and monitoring by the EU and UNIDO following the participation of Cluster Development in the strategy + the implementation of the action plans.