Western Cape Identifies Design As Key Driver Of Economic Development

The Western Cape government and its Investment and Trade Promotion Agency (Wesgro) have identified the province as the only one in South Africa to prioritise design as a key economic tool to drive future growth and job creation. 

Wesgro CEO Nils Flaatten and Western Cape MEC of Cultural Affairs and Sport Dr Ivan Meyer emphasised the power of design as an economic driver in the Western Cape, at a dinner for 20 international buyers and 15 local designers and design exporters, participating in the Design Indaba expo and conference at the weekend at the CTICC. 

Both Flaatten and Dr Meyer highlighted the province's unique approach to prioritising design as a tool to build stronger communities and promote democracy. 

This echoed Western Cape Economic Development MEC Alan Winde's budget speech, in which he, while speaking off the cuff, highlighted the importance of design and the world class Design Indaba conference and exhibition, as key attractors of trade and investment into the province. 

Wesgro did a matchmaking exercise with handpicked top international buyers and local designers, treating them to an exclusive networking dinner at the One & Only Hotel in the V&A Waterfront on Thursday evening - the first event of its kind since the inception of Design Indaba eight years ago. The dinner was also attended by officials from the City and Provincial governments who work with the design industry, as well as the Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI) and Western Cape Furniture Initiative. 

Many international buyers at the event said they came to Design Indaba not only to buy and identify new suppliers, but to scout important new trends in design. Buyers came from as far afield as Canada, the US, Denmark and Australia. Buyers from around the world - some first time and others repeat visitors - said they were very impressed with the quality and sophistication of design and professionalism they have encountered in Cape Town. 

Dr Meyer told the guests: "The Western Cape Government has made economic growth and job creation its number one strategic objective. We know economic growth and job creation will only happen through foreign direct investment (FDI) and trade relations. We have realised that one of the more innovative ways to deal with poverty reduction is through design, innovation and creativity."

Dr Meyer also acknowledged that Design Indaba played an important role in increasing trade into the Western Cape, to create jobs, and reduce poverty and inequality. 

"Africa will never prosper if the world continues to give it money. What you are doing is what will really help Africa," Dr Meyer said to the buyers in the room, to loud applause. Many of the designers employed previously disadvantaged craftspeople. 

Speaking about the power of design to drive productivity, Dr Meyer said the "smart pen", designed by the Western Cape Department of Agriculture - recently voted the best run agriculture department in Africa - revolutionised service delivery in this sector. Reports are written on a tablet and sent immediately via satellite by inspectors from far-flung rural areas to their superiors and clients, speeding up the process by three weeks. Dr Meyer said design had already been used effectively in Cape Town for positive social change, for instance through the Violence Protection Through Urban Upgrade (VPUU) project in Khayelitsha. Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014 would also create many more opportunities to use design as a tool for positive social and economic change in the city, he said. 

According to data collected by Wesgro's in-house economic research unit, a total of 5,394 FDI projects were recorded in creative industries worldwide between 2003-2011, equating to a 4.1% share of global FDI. These projects represent a total capital investment of R544.41billion which is an average investment of R100.69m per project. During the period, a total of 268,124 jobs were created. 

From 2003 to 2011, Cape Town attracted the highest value of FDI projects to South Africa, in the creative industries cluster (see graph below). Fourteen projects were initiated, with a capital value of R1.8bn. The majority of these projects were in new media and communications companies, with activities in advertising, digital media and business services. In the same period, creative industries in Johannesburg attracted R1.2 bn in FDI and Pretoria attracted R465 million. 

"Cape Town is the African gateway and South African epicentre of creativity, design and innovation," Flaatten said. 

Flaatten said it was important to note the significance of Winde singling out Design Indaba and its founder Ravi Naidoo as important roleplayers in economic growth and job creation in the province. He said no other province in the country identified design as a key economic driver. 

"The Design Indaba Expo has seen incredible growth since it was established eight years ago, proving that creativity and the design industries in particular can fuel economic growth", said Flaatten. 

"The number of Design Indaba Expo exhibitors has grown from 40 in 2004 to over 370 in 2011. Visitor numbers have grown from 8000 to 38 000 during the same period. In an economic impact assessment conducted by the UCT Graduate School of Business, it was found that the 2011 Design Indaba contributed R261.5-million to the national GDP, a 12.71% increase from the R232-million in 2010, the bulk of which comes from business orders to the value of R141.3-million."

Flaatten continued: "Over the past three years, the Design Indaba has contributed a total of over R600-million to the national GDP. The 2011 Design Indaba directly and indirectly sustained and created a total of 1008 full and part-time jobs, an increase of 52 jobs from the previous Design Indaba."

Flaatten said Cape Town won its World Design Capital 2014 status, because design was positioned as a means to reunify a divided population and create economic opportunities for the people of the Western Cape. "What I like a lot about design is that it is the democracy of ideas," said Flaatten. 

Flaatten said one of Wesgro's core functions was to link up local exporters and international buyers and encouraged anyone who needed trade assistance to contact Wesgro. 

Reacting to concern by a number of international buyers that South African designs were becoming expensive, Flaatten said: "Part of the challenge of globalising our design is to be seen as a value for money, high quality jurisdiction. In the short to medium term local designers and exporters need to be price competitive to establish and consolidate markets, because consumers in developed markets are becoming price sensitive."

Commenting further, Minister Winde said: "The Design Indaba plays a vital role in drawing business and tourism to the Western Cape. Over the years, the Design Indaba has become more than just an exhibition; it has become the premier event at which our creative industries can showcase their uniquely Western Cape products, as well as a platform at which deals are signed. The Western Cape Government is proud to support this initiative."

The Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI), which has about 2 500 craft projects on its database with products ranging from 5c to R20 000 or more in value, was also represented at the event. CCDI market support programme manager Fran Stewart said her office assisted in matchmaking craftspeople and buyers and could even monitor the delivery of orders for buyers. 

For assistance, Stewart and CCDI Orders Facilitation Manager Rosemary Reddy can be reached on 021 461 1488 or http://www.capecraftanddesign.org.za

The networking dinner followed a breakfast hosted by Wesgro at the first day of Design Indaba, for 100 international and South African buyers. The keynote speaker Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille welcomed the buyers to the business region and invited them to "continue this partnership of trade" with Cape Town's creative sectors. 

De Lille said regional centres were becoming drivers of change and cities were becoming important drivers of growth especially in the developing world. De Lille told buyers that Cape Town especially was an emerging market with unique skills and services well worth investing in. It was a world hub for excellence, innovation and new ways of thinking about society and the economy - which involved design thinking to a large extent. Cape Town's World Design Capital 2014 status would help the region to build on its reputation as a hub of innovation, she said.