The creative economy offers an interesting perspective for Latin America, providing the opportunity to create new jobs, improve our region's educational system and build a more sustainable way towards development. The creative economy -usually referred to economic sectors that are based on talent and creativity- has proved to be resilient during testing times, growing at a faster pace than the region's economy as a whole. Latin America is in a unique position to take advantage of the promising future of the world's creative economy. Nevertheless, there are still many issues to address if we really want to catch this train without -again- being left behind.
What we have
There are at least three strengths that are characteristic to Latin America in terms of the creative economy debate:
1. Culture & Identity: We live in a world where every product or service is prone to be “commoditized” sooner or later. Countries and regions will only be able to compete globally if they manage to offer unique “stories” embedded in their products. Latin America is probably the world's most diverse region and it´s rich cultural heritage can be found in its world class cultural and creative industries: music, publishing, performing arts, craftsmanship, video games, architecture, fashion & design and visual arts, to name just a few of them.
2. Entrepreneurship: Innovation is the key factor in the creative economy equation. Latin America is going through a boom in terms of its startup ecosystem, with new companies, business accelerators, co-working spaces and creative districts appearing in cities across the region.
3. Young creative population: Latin America is one of the youngest regions in the world, with a new middle class that is attending universities and taking part of the job market, either by working at “multilatinas” (multinational companies) or by launching their own startups.
What we lack
As mentioned before, there are still major obstacles to overcome if our region wants to be a global player in the creative economy field:
1. Innovative governments: The public sector is crucial to the region´s development perspectives and it´s still behind in terms of open innovation, experimentation and agile management culture.
2. More investment in education: The STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) challenge is increasingly being addressed by the region's educational systems, though there is still a huge lack of public and private investment. However, the STEAM (adding “arts” to the previous equation) challenge is still inexistent in the educational debate, and it is a key to promote creativity among Latin America's population.
3. A common ground: As we said before, culture and identity represent one of the biggest opportunities in terms of the creative economy but there is still a way to go in order to successfully tell a “Latin America Creative Story”. The region needs to move forward with new arrangements that would bring the different countries closer, focusing in culture and other areas, instead of looking only towards the narrow trade agenda.
In 1941 Stefan Zweig wrote his book “Brazil, Land of the Future”, with an overly optimistic and -we know now- definitely wrong view about the country´s prospects. Such vain hope can be addressed to the region as a whole. Inequality, poverty, a weak educational system and a lack of competitiveness are characteristic across Latin America. Luckily, the region is also recognized for the strength of its entrepreneurial ecosystem and its cultural and creative industries. Our challenge is to transform Latin America's creative economy into a development engine for our population as a whole.
For more information, read our white paper Factors for Enabling the Creative Economy.
The World Economic Forum on Latin America is taking place in Medellin, Colombia from 16 to 17 June.