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, some of these remarkable efforts are as follows:
* Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises: The new UAE Government structure approved in July 2020 established the post of Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs. Under this role, the Minister is at the fore of designing national initiatives to strengthen the UAE's small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, one of the engines of the national economy, and promote entrepreneurship in various industries. The Minister is also tasked to set a strategic direction and develop a general national policy for the country's tourism sector.
* Freelancers Study: In April 2020, the UAE launched a comprehensive survey to understand the challenges faced by artists and small enterprises operating in the cultural and creative sectors as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The aim of the survey was to collect information and data that would contribute to making informed decisions, and to design a support program that suits the needs of these individuals and organizations. The studies have shown that companies will follow a new trend in hiring post-COVID19, with the emphasis on hiring freelancers, over full-time staff, to avoid being financially burdened should a future crisis or pandemic affect the continuity of their work. This finding has propelled the Ministry of Culture to work with the Ministry of Economy to understand the requirements of the freelance community in the UAE and provide the necessary legal protections to this segment. To date, multiple workshops have been held with freelancers to understand their challenges and their needs.
* The National Creative Relief Fund: The National Creative Relief Program was launched in May 2020 to financially assist both individuals and small enterprises in order to help the industry survive the effects of the pandemic on the creative economy. A committee evaluated the applications based on criteria including the volume of lost work and its financial implications. The program supported individuals and organizations across all cultural domains. The grant contributed to cover 100 percent of freelancers' and small enterprises (less than 10 employees) financial obligations for a month.
* Youth Launchpad: The Youth Launchpad is one of the Ministry of Culture and Youth (Federal Youth Authority) initiatives. It offers youth the opportunity to start their businesses in different assigned spaces around the country, which enables them to put their entrepreneurship skills into action during an assigned period of time. The Youth Launchpad initiative has been developed for young entrepreneurs to jumpstart their businesses in partnership with different entities in the UAE. The entrepreneur will take advantage of the space free of charge. The space will accommodate a variety of design elements which complements the identity of the entrepreneur's business. Each entrepreneur will be given the opportunity to have the space for a specific period of time.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) - InncuVation Space: In 2019, HCT inaugurated the InncuVation Space, a high-tech innovation and entrepreneurial incubator and innovation free-zone among universities, designed to motivate students for applied work and innovative and entrepreneurial projects. It has five specific zones, including Media and Design. HCT partners with companies that provide students with future skills training and enable them to be future entrepreneurs.
* Hamzat Wasl Studio: Hamzat Wasl Studio is an art and design management studio. The Studio works with freelance designers, acting as a link between clients and designers, managing the project as a "middle-man". The Studio contributes to job creation for freelance creatives in the UAE.
Many results have been achieved in the UAE since the establishment and delivery of multiple policies and programs to support entrepreneurship and job creation in the creative sector by key stakeholders. Below are some of the major results:
* Ghadan 21:
More than 50 initiatives have been launched so far, among them:
o Ghadan 21 has a budget of AED50 billion to spend over a 3 year period to stimulate the economy and support SMEs.
o 2020 Abu Dhabi Economic Stimulus Package and 17 Financial Initiatives to support individuals and SMEs, including those in the cultural field, through the challenges of the current health pandemic;
o Sharaka, an initiative to support the private sector to submit outstanding invoices to be fast-tracked for payment and ensure that payments are properly billed;
o Abu Dhabi Local Content Program, to provide growth opportunities for the private sector, local businesses, products and talents;
o Abu Dhabi Calendar and Abu Dhabi Moments, initiatives that ensure year-round cultural and sporting events and activities;
o Abu Dhabi Instant License, streamlining the application process for licenses across all sectors through a digital portal.
o For Abu Dhabi, an AED 8 billion program to enhance public space through the inclusion of city-wide public art projects. So far, there are 300 projects to beautify public spaces, with the first murals already unveiled.
o Tajer Abu Dhabi, allowing business, including cultural enterprises, to work in Abu Dhabi without the need for office space. So far, +7,400 tajer licences have been issued.
o Ventures Fund, a AED535 million fund to support startups and entrepreneurs with innovative business ideas.
o As a result of these initiatives, business confidence index increased by 3.4 points.
* HCT InccuVation Space:
o In the first year of its establishment, the center received 1,000 submissions from among which 25 students' projects received funding.
o Many freelancers in cultural sector are registered and listed on the platform.
o 113 startups supported to date, 21% of them in the creative economy category (entertainment, publishing, ecommerce, clothing).
o Created 1,300 jobs.
o 50% startups have been led by women.
o 31 is the average age of entrepreneurs (with participants being as young as 16 old and as old as 50).
o In 2019, 3,000 attendees, 140 startups, 240 speakers participated in the Sharjah Entrepreneurship Festival. In 2020, a virtual Festival was held, with over 8,000,000 attendees, 240 speakers, 200 showcasing startups.
o Over 10,000 attendees in events delivered in partnership with major international companies like IBM and Facebook.
o 5 hackathons have been held over the past 5 years, with over 500 participants.
o As a response to COVID 19, a 6-week program was delivered to teach participants how to develop a business idea and build a startup.
o Sheraa has many local and international partners to implement and fund its programming.
* Hamzat Wasl Studio:
o Their clients include a wide variety, ranging from start-ups to established brands to government entities, and they were able to connect freelancers and create opportunities for them with clients they may have otherwise not been able to connect with. Especially since clients generally preferred established creative studios and often overlooked smaller freelancers, or don't even know how to find them.
o The Studio has also been offering training for young creatives and providing them with experience working in a design studio. To date, 3 interns have been trained.
* Youth Launchpad:
o The Youth Launchpad offers various spaces in 22 locations across the country, which are central locations and high traffic. To date, many youth have benefited from this program and launched their businesses.
* The National Creative Relief Fund:
o In the first phase of the program 87 creative individuals and small enterprises operating in the cultural and creative industries received financial grants. The grant, which ranged between AED15,000 to AED50,000 (roughly USD4,100 to USD13,600) were distributed among 50 individuals and 37 companies to help them overcome the financial difficulties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to supporting freelancers, the second phase of the program aimed to support organizations with up to 20 employees. With the second phase, the National Creative Relief Program was able to provide financial grants between AED15,000 to AED75,000 (roughly USD4,100 to USD20,500) to another 53 freelancers and organizations, bringing the total number of individuals and companies helped throughout both phases of the program to 140.
Organizations in the UAE, are committed to supporting the growth of the private sector in the UAE and encouraging entrepreneurship and the growth of SMEs, and those that are in the creative sector. Many organizations are using lessons learned over the years to improve their offerings to ensure greater impact. One example, is Sheraa's Incubator Program.
Sheraa's Incubator Program has gone through several improvements. It has moved away from a workshop model to a more individualized program offering mentorship and guidance. The new program is planned to be 6 months long, and will allow Sheraa to work closely with founders on the details and specifics of building their businesses. The aim of the updated program is to help founders achieve their unique goals with dedicated coaches. Sheraa will leverage its network and partnerships to assist startups and provide legal, financial modelling, and marketing support. An emphasis will be put on wellbeing of founders, to assist them through the sometimes-difficult journey of being an entrepreneur.
Furthermore, 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 started delivering results. As a next step, the UAE will work towards a comprehensive Cultural and Creative Industries Strategy to ensure that all efforts in the country come together effectively for greater impact for the people and economy of the UAE.