Nelson Mandela University wins SACO contract

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South African Cultural Observatory
South African Cultural Observatory

Nelson Mandela University together with a consortium of three university partners have been awarded a multi-year contract to advance the operations of the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) and support the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC).

The contract represents a significant investment by the DAC into research focused on the creative economy. The contract will run for five years through to 2023.

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The re-appointment of Nelson Mandela University follows a successful initial three-year contract, awarded in 2015, which saw the launch of the flagship cultural economy think tank steered by the university.

The SACO leadership said it wanted to build on the gains of the first contract.

“The first contract proved there is both a real demand for creative economy research and a need for an organisation like the South African Cultural Observatory,” said Prof Andrew Leitch, Nelson Mandela University Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research and Engagement.

New to the partnership is the University of KwaZulu-Natal, which joins Rhodes University and the University of Fort Hare, to square off what is hoped will become a national, multi-university research powerhouse, Leitch added.

The think tank also has a new leader at the helm to take it into the next five years. SACO Research Manager, and passionate creative economy champion, Unathi Lutshaba, has been appointed SACO Executive Director. She will be supported by academic directors from across the partner universities.

To date, the SACO has developed a comprehensive baseline of research detailing the dynamics, impact and influence of the South African creative economy on jobs, GDP, cities, social cohesion, transformation, women and the youth.

Currently, the South African creative economy contributes between 2.5% and 3% to the country’s GDP, employing over 400 000 people.

SACO projections show that the ‘cultural economy’, which includes cultural and non-cultural practitioners working in South Africa’s creative economy, made up just over 6.7% of all employment in the country.

“The cultural and creative industries need to be taken more seriously by business and government. Data that unambiguously demonstrates the contribution of these important industries to both economic and social ends is one way to achieve this goal,” said Lutshaba.

“We are working tirelessly to ensure that South Africa has the information it needs to make strategic decisions to support the creative and cultural industries. This will allow the CCIs to enhance their contribution to everything from economic growth to social change, while also protecting the integrity and critical role of the arts.”

The SACO supports the collection and analysis of data, influences policy, shares insights and builds on intellectual capacity across the arts, culture and heritage sectors cultural and creative industries (CCIs) in South Africa.

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