Can the UAE be a world leading creative industries hub?

The UAE in general and both Dubai & Abu Dhabi are making an attempt to create a centre for the creative industries but the question to ask is whether the emirates have what it takes to encourage creativity and creative talents and excellence.
Pumping money into large scale projects of creative nature will obviously help in this quest but is enough being done to lay the foundation for all the support services and infrastructure that will ensure that the UAE creative industries can last for the next 2-3 decades.
Commissioners for television, theatres, galleries, film producers and advertising and media industries must be predominantly Arab and from the region or who have taken home in the region. This will ensure that the industry will be here long after the expats pack up their bags and go home.
There is a need for a strategy group tasked to draw plans for the development and sustenance of this important sector. This group needs to look at plans to draft more Arab talents into the industry as a matter of urgency.
The creative industries can generate more than 22% of the UAE GDP and the growth will be comparable to the financial services or the property boom that is sweeping the region in general and the UAE in particular. Taking a look at the UK you can see that they have the largest creative sector in the EU and accounts for 7.9% of the economy comparable to the financial services industries. The industry employs 1.8 million people who depend on this sector continual growth.
In the past decade there has been a major shift and emphasis on creativity and the creative industries has been equal to the task. As a result hundreds of companies are active in this field and are contributing to the growth of products and services.
The overlap between creativity and innovation has led to successful exploitation of new ideas, which has led to the emergence of new products and services such as the iPOD etc.
Today the UK has and still is in a strong position but faces strong challenges from overseas.
Knowledge and creativity have played a key role in the economy. High tech manufacturing plays a vital element in the success. The consumer is well educated, well informed, and affluent and demands better quality products.
The relationship between consumer and producer ensures the knowledge offering is constantly being improved and changed b input from the consumer.
While incomes and productivity increased over the past decade, the price of manufactured goods has fallen in price. Moreover increasingly affluent consumers have not needed to spend a much on food, transport, clothing as it becomes cheaper to acquire brown and white goods.
An indicator of the growth of the knowledge economy has been the investment in R&D, computer software, design, brand organisational system, which is equivalent in size to investments in plants.
The creative industries have benefited from the growth of affluence along with the growth of creative and cultural tastes. People have a tendency to express their emotional feelings in whatever cultural form, such as music, art, and theatre. There are 5 million active musicians in the UK, 250 thousands play in bands. There are thousands of live events around the UK. Musicians are some of the early exploiters of interactive websites to express themselves and gain international fame and recognition. Ethnic minorities have contributed a lot in this field with talents in music, entertainment and the digital fields.
The UAE can grow substantially due to the freedom, diversity and pluralism it enjoys over other Arab countries, English language being spoken by most of the people as well as Arabic and Hindi.
Dubai society developed the value of openness, tolerance that distinguishes it from other Arab societies.
In my experience working in the creative industries for the past 20 years I have found a lack of initiative and a coherent strategy to address these issues within the government and the creative industries. There are just a handful of small initiatives, which happens as an afterthought.
Saad Saraf (CEO)
Media Reach Advertising


2 Comments to “Can the UAE be a world leading creative industries hub?”

  1. Good to find your blog, Saad.

    When it comes to advertising, I think the UAE is attracting a lot of good talent and its rank in the Gunn Report is on the rise.

    Two tips to enhance your blog, buddy. Spaces between paragraphs. And comments enabled for non-Wordpress users too.

    Let me know if you need any help customising WordPress – that’s how started my ad blog which is now self hosted at

    I’d be happy to help,


  2. While I appreciate your views on the development of Creative Industries in the UAE, I’d like to point out that you seem to be having opposing views with regard to encouraging a diverse workforce.

    You pointed out in the “UK Creative Industries – a white wash!” that ethnic diversity was key to unlocking the creative potential, whereas in this post you clearly indicate that the commissioners whould be predominantly Arab.

    While there is a difference between commissioners and the creative workforce, how can UAE inspire world-class creativity if it doesn’t encourage competition to stimulate the industry, atleast in the initial stages.

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