According to UNESCO’s definition of the cultural and creative industries, “the creative and cultural industries are those whose primary purpose is the production or reproduction, promotion, dissemination or commercialisation of products, services, and activities of a cultural, artistic or heritage nature.” The culture and creative industries are not defined statistically in the country yet, but in the working documents of state bodies, they are called Cultural and Creative Industries. There is an understanding that this cross-border sphere is situated at the intersection of culture and the economy. That is, any cultural product at the stage of creativity is in the field of culture. However, with the release of this cultural product into circulation, that is, when the economic laws of mass production, exchange, trade, and consumption come into force, this is already an area of economics.
The development of cultural and creative industries as a field of activity providing the production of cultural products and implementing cultural services is envisaged as one of the main directions of state cultural policy. However, despite some progress in some sub-sectors of the cultural and creative industries, this area is forming yet.
Private companies, studios, workshops, centres, and individual entrepreneurs are the top part of the creative industries. Private organisations operating mainly in Baku and other major cities cover design, advertising, crafts, fashion, fine arts, music, and other creative fields. However, the lack of regular publication of comprehensive statistics on cultural and creative industries (CSIs) at the national level does not fully allow the measurement, monitoring, and evaluation of development processes in this sector.
At the same time, according to the UNCTAD report, in 2014, Azerbaijan’s imports of CCIs’ products amounted to 138.04 million US dollars, while exports amounted to 3.95 million US dollars, resulting in a negative trade balance of CCIs of 134.09 million US dollars. In the 2017 EU Report on Cultural Development Indicators for Azerbaijan to determine the share of CCIs in the Azerbaijani economy, the share of CCIs in GDP was officially set at 1% ($ 374 million for 2016). Furthermore, a study based on the International Intellectual Property Organisation’s Guidelines for 2019 shows that the growth of the creative industries from 2003 to 2015 increased by 13 times, from 220.5 million to 2 815.9 million AZN.
Since 2018, the Ministry for Culture has taken various measures and drafted several plans to develop CCIs. In addition, the research on the role of the CCIs sector in the world economy, the local situation in the Azerbaijani context, the contribution of CCIs to the Azerbaijani economy, shortcomings in this area, public-private investigations into partnerships and partnership gaps were conducted.
According to the “Action Plan for 2019 on implementing the necessary activities for developing creative and cultural industries”, a strategic document on CCIs is being prepared.
The main areas of activity, such as the Start-up Competition and Forum on MYS, sectoral organisations (councils), and the brand “Creative Azerbaijan”, have already been identified. Furthermore, on October 31, 2019, Baku was included in the UNESCO “Creative Cities Network” on the theme of “design”. In addition, the Ministry for Culture has acted as a partner in several events to support and develop the industry (“Azerbaijan Design Forum 2019”, “Azerbaijan Design Award”).
The Ministry for Culture has been a partner in several competitions to coordinate independent creative industries with state-funded and managed culture, support and development initiatives that combine creativity and business, increase the interest of business organisations and youth in this field, and support startups in the country, such as “Creative Business Cup”, Venture Battle Hackathon, “Big Idea Challenge”, Republican Innovation Competition, etc. The Boomerang project was presented as part of the Creative Spark programme implemented by the British Council.
On February 27, 2020, with the support of the “Creative Azerbaijan” portal, organised by the Ministry for Culture and the Public Council under the Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMBDA), a public discussion on “Cultural Business Forum: Current Situation and Prospects” at the YARAT Contemporary Art Centre was organised. In addition, the Ministry for Culture regularly holds meetings with representatives of the culture and creative industries, exchanging views on the challenges and opportunities in the field.
The understanding is emerging that Azerbaijani culture has excellent internal potential and driving force to promote the cultural and creative industries. That is why many necessary activities for the period up to 2030 have been identifying within the current Cultural Strategy:
- Improving the legislation on cultural and creative industries, tax policy, and other financial and legal issues in this field, the application of comprehensive protection of copyright, brands, patents, and trademarks;
- Improving the existing legal framework in cinematography and book circulation to regulate modern trends and new opportunities.
- Regulation of production, exchange, sale and consumption of cultural products, the establishment of art management and production institutes, increasing the knowledge of key actors in logistics, marketing, fundraising, crowdfunding, advertising and promotion, expansion of monetisation and paid cultural services, application of international experience in the field development of cultural and creative industries; et cetera.