The term "cultural and creative industries" was introduced for the first time in the UAE by the Ministry of Culture and Youth in 2018 through the Culture Agenda 2031. This has led to deliberate planning to ensure that jobs and businesses in the cultural sector have the required support to flourish in the UAE. But before 2018, and to this day, there are many existing institutions that directly and indirectly support jobs and SMEs in the creative sector. These institutions have attracted cultural professionals and artists from the region and the world to move to the UAE, bringing their experiences and insights to contribute to the creation of a rich and dynamic cultural sector and at the same time, providing an opportunity for cultural professionals to gain experience and expertise.
The UAE is also home to many free zones including media cities, production and studio cities, internet cities, to name a few. The free zones provide a transparent regulatory environment and streamlined services for obtaining permits and visas, thereby allowing freelancers, startups and established businesses to plan growth and innovation strategies. Businesses established in the free zones can be 100% foreign owned, and are exempt from personal, income and corporate taxes as well as customs duties for goods and services. Further, the free zones offer a variety of office spaces, as well as production and business facilities, talent development initiatives and training and business support services. As a result of the protection and freedom offered in the free zones, and the stability, security and infrastructure in the country, the UAE has attracted cultural enterprises and talent from across the world. This has created an environment where diverse voices and rich content is produced, consumed and distributed in the country, region and the world. It has also created opportunities for cultural professionals to develop their skills and expertise, contributing to the cultural ecosystems in their country.
Below are a few examples of entities in the UAE that support job creation and entrepreneurship:
* Ghadan 21: Ghadan 21 is a three-year accelerator program based in Abu Dhabi and started in 2019. It invests in initiatives that make business, including for cultural enterprises, easier through flexible licensing, incentive packages, reduced tariffs, partnerships, and de-regulation. The program also develops incubator programs that support infrastructure, healthcare, education, culture, and the environment.
* GoFreelance and TECOM Group: In June 2018, Dubai free-zone operator TECOM Group reduced registration and license fees for freelancers through GoFreelance. GoFreelance includes a large set of activities under the cultural and design fields including: actor, artist, choreographer, composer, creative director, film director, furniture designer, graphic designer, music director and musician. This initiative was launched to enable the creation of jobs and allow businesses to operate flexibly. As a member of the GoFreelance community, freelancers get exclusive opportunities to get new jobs, bid on projects and grow their network via Marketplace - an online platform introduced with the aim of supporting GoFreelance talent. Permit holders become a freelancer with Dubai Media City, Dubai Internet City and Dubai Knowledge Park. Individuals can also apply for employment visa for themselves and extend residency permits to their dependents through the GoFreelance program. TECOM Group also has coworking spaces and holds networking events.
* Sheraa: Is an entrepreneurship center launched in 2016 in Sharjah. It aims to support startups and build an entrepreneurship ecosystem in Sharjah, and it is based in universities to build an entrepreneurship culture from an early stage and works on partnerships between academia and industry. It focuses on technology startups and youth. Sheraa works from inspiration to building an entrepreneurship culture; by teaching youth (through workshops, events including annual festivals), offering programmatic support to startups as they build their businesses, ensuring founder wellness, providing equity free grants, and supporting startups access to the market in Sharjah. Sheraa supports all types of startups but has a focus stream for the creative economy. To inspire youth, Sheraa holds founder talks, idea generation and validation sessions, workshops related to coding, and other long-term support programs.
* In5: Launched in 2017, in5, a design innovation center supports the design and fashion talent landscape, offering students, entrepreneurs, and startups an opportunity to transform their disruptive ideas into commercial successes. In addition to industry specialized training and workshops, in5 also provides members with dynamic co-working spaces, offices and community areas that are designed to inspire creativity. It is open to everyone from the fields of visual art, fashion, architecture, and product design.
Each of the Emirates in the UAE have a media city/zone where freelancers, startups and established businesses can work in close proximity and bring their creative ideas to life. The following are statistics on some of these:
* TwoFour54, Abu Dhabi's Media Free Zone is home to 600+ media companies, 850+ freelancers, 130+ entrepreneurs, and 5000+ media professionals.
* Dubai Media City Free Zone, is home to 1,500+ companies, 5,000+ professionals from 142+ nationalities. It produces publications in 5 languages and broadcasting in 11 languages.
* Dubai Production City has more than 220 companies and 6,800 professionals.
* Dubai Studio City is home to more than 275 companies,2,800+ professional, 1,000+ freelancers.
Many organizations, from government, private, and non-profit, have all offered initiatives to support different aspects of job creation and entrepreneurship in the creative sector. These efforts have enabled cultural professionals from the region and the world to contribute to development of a dynamic and rich cultural sector in the UAE.