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Art and Cultural Economy in the UAE

The creative industries are critical drivers of innovation, the engine of growth in knowledge-based economies. They also generate high-value skill-based employment and contribute to an enhanced quality of life. The UAE has become a magnet for a vast spectrum of creative talent including architects, interior designers, visual artists, branding strategists, and community advisors. Cultural exchange and collaboration on cultural projects attract artists in residence and curators for exhibitions.

Moreover, in June 2020 the UAE ranked fourth globally in the National Culture Index as part of the IMD World Competitiveness Ranking. The National Culture Index ranks countries based on whether "the national culture is open to foreign ideas". “This achievement is a vivid reflection of the efforts made by the UAE to ensure the sustainability of the cultural and creative sector, as well as the promotion of creative industries by building and nurturing national talents,” Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, said in a statement.

As well as this achievement, Dubai was the first city in the Middle East to be appointed as a UNESCO Creative City of Design. With 28,000 visitors from 48 countries to 106 Museums and 105 Galleries (Source Art Dubai, 2018).

Abu Dhabi announced in June that it would be investing $6 billion in cultural and creative industries on top of the $2.3 billion already pledged as part of its post-pandemic stimulus program. Launched in 2019, Abu Dhabi’s Culture and Creative Industries Strategy (CCI) is a comprehensive five-year plan to accelerate business growth and job creation in the realms of film and television, visual and performing arts, gaming, e-sports, heritage, crafts and publishing.

Already home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the emirate will also soon host the Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. A further AED 22 billion will be released over the next five years to support new museums and creative activities.

It is important to invest in the creative ecosystem in the UAE for three reasons. First, the soft power that the country possesses is a unique aspect of the UAE’s identity. Second, the development of a good cultural milieu is crucial to taking forward a vision for a tolerant, moderate country and region. Third, the growth of cultural and creative industries also has great economic potential.

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