Africa Investment Forum: closing the technology gap promises significant gains for Africa’s creative industries | African Development Bank

Africa’s creative industries have grown rapidly in recent years as their music, films and fashion increasingly attract global audiences.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development defines creative industries as encompassing a broad spectrum of fields: arts and crafts; audiovisual media (film and television); design (architecture and fashion); new media (video games); performing arts (musical instruments); publishing (books, newspapers); and fine arts (photosculpture).

Cultural industries are increasingly intertwined with and dependent on technology and innovation. A striking example is Africarare, the first South African metaverse, which debuted in October 2021. According to reports, Africarare includes a digital world called Ubuntuland that offers an immersive virtual reality experience that includes an art marketplace for non-fungible tokens.

Another example shows how technologies from the creative industries can be applied in other areas. Mobihealth – a Nigerian subsidiary of an international telemedicine company – is launching kiosks using virtual reality technology to provide primary health care to underserved Africans, capitalizing on a niche in the market.

Data from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that the global creative market is booming. Between 2010 and 2020, global exports of creative goods increased from US$419 billion to US$524 billion. Creative services — advertising, market research, engineering, design, and other creative services — grew even more, from $487 million to $1.1 billion over the same period.

UNCTAD believes that technological advances related to the fourth industrial revolution can further fuel the growth of the sector. These innovations include 3D, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, and the Internet of Things.

African countries and companies are not yet fully embracing these technologies, partly due to a weak regulatory environment and low investment in digital infrastructure. The African Development Bank estimates that annual spending of US$9 billion will be required through 2030 to close the infrastructure gap.

Priority investment areas include cloud and data center and broadband infrastructure; digital services, including agritech and health technology; training and human capital in the form of entrepreneurship and start-ups; and strengthening the regulatory environment.

This is where the Africa Investment Forum comes in. An initiative of the African Development Bank and seven partners, the Forum focuses on private sector financing for transformative projects with development impact across Africa.

The Africa Investment Forum is prioritizing sectors that can help African economies stave off the triple challenges linked to the ongoing impact of Covid-19, Russia’s war in Ukraine which has led to soaring food and fuel prices, and climate change are.

The Africa Investment Forum will be Market days 2022 in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, from 02nd to 4th November. The creative industries will be a priority sector, with fashion, film and textile projects expected. Transactions in digital and communications infrastructure – a crucial component of the emerging creative industries – are also likely to be represented.

Recognizing the important economic and cultural value of the creative industries, the Africa Investment Forum’s partner institutions have launched specific initiatives to support the creative industries.

In 2020, Afreximbank announced a $500 million fund to support the creative industries to provide lines of credit to banks as well as direct funding to operators.

And in late 2021, the African Development Bank provided a $170 million loan to digital and creative businesses in Nigeria. The bank has also launched Fashionomics, a flagship initiative to support the growth of African micro, small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative industries, particularly in fashion.

The Africa Investment Forum also relies on the convening power of its eight members to generate knowledge and research to help governments implement key regulatory reforms and build institutions to support private sector investment.

Market Days 2022 will also feature deals in the energy, transportation, infrastructure and agribusiness sectors, as well as transactions that significantly benefit women.

The transactions will come from the investment pipelines of the eight founding partners of the platform. They are the African Development Bank, Africa 50; the Africa Finance Corporation; the African Export-Import Bank; the Southern Africa Development Bank; the Trade and Development Bank; the European Investment Bank; and the Islamic Development Bank.

Since its inception in 2018, the Africa Investment Forum platform has mobilized over $100 billion in investment interests.