SA Cultural Observatory impact in Arts and Culture sector

Arts and Culture

07 November 2017
Chairperson: Ms X Tom
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Meeting Summary

Information that the Portfolio Committee on Arts and Culture had been waiting for since the start of their term was presented by the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO), which reported on the development of the South African Festivals Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC) -- a free online tool specifically for cultural festival and event organisers so they could track the economic impact of their events.

The Calculator, developed by SACO as a project hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), showed that the Department of Arts and Culture’s (DAC’s) Mzansi Golden Economy strategy was viable, and that arts and culture could move from the domain of entertainment into playing a part in the economy.

Or could it? The DAC and SACO had to answer whether festivals were not merely places for people to get drunk, and whether local artists actually gained anything from the festivals. Members also wanted to know what happened to the proceeds between the gate and the Department.

The Department was accused of working at a snail’s pace and being non-responsive. The White Paper that was being developed in 2014, at the start of the Committee’s term, was still being developed. The Chairperson of the Committee said she had resigned herself to not seeing the White Paper before the end of their term.

SACO was confident that spillovers from successes in the arts and culture sector could positively impact on other sectors. Its project had cost the Department R45 million over the past three years, and it was proud to have exceeded the number of bursaries it had intended to award during the three years. Instead of 12, it had awarded 14, and was busy with a final call for applications for further bursaries. 

Meeting report

The Chairperson said there were more than 28 institutions like the South African Cultural Observatory (SACO) that received funding from the Committee. All would have to appear. She encouraged SACO to be open and honest in sharing their challenges and excitement. Questions should not be taken personally, even if they led to heated debates. It was never about the people sitting in the room, but always about the people that the Committee and Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) were serving.
Whenever an entity came to present, the Committee wanted the DAC to know what was happening. She invited the Department to introduce SACO’s presentation.
DAC Overview

Ms Lisa Combrinck, Acting Deputy Director General (DDG), prefaced the discussion by saying that SACO was not an entity or an institution, but a project of the DAC that was hosted by the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) in Port Elizabeth, with connections to Fort Hare University.

She introduced Professor Richard Haines, the head of SACO, who was accompanied by two members of his team. Because of the vastness of the project, there was a nationwide network of researchers that assisted in the various research projects of the cultural observatory, which had ties with other observatories in other parts of the world. The element in the Department’s Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) strategy that needed more work was the area of research -- the area of building up data and cultural specifics that could really measure and value the impact of arts and culture in South Africa. Stats SA were not producing the desired results, and a mapping study had been embarked on in 2013 with interesting results.

Arts and Culture were playing a far more important role in the economy than previously thought. The reasons for the observatory included analysing the strengths and weaknesses of the sector, to influence planning of the various work streams, and to have some impact on the revised White Paper on arts and culture. The idea was to shape the minds of people, uplift the status of the sector, to establish linkages with tourism and education, and seek to measure job creation in the sector. To measure the economic impact of different festivals, SACO had created the South African Festival Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC).

Ms Combrinck said it had not been easy to marry different academic disciplines. The NMMU had a contract with the Department that concluded at the end of March 2018. They would conclude their contract with a mapping study that would follow the 2013 mapping study. She expressed the hope that the presentation would be lucid for the sake of the Committee.

Dr P Mulder (FF+) said he understood that SACO was a project, and the money for the project came from the Department. Was there a need for more money?

Ms Combrinck answered that SACO had been funded predominantly by the Department, but that they were looking elsewhere to supplement and sustain funding. They had contact with cultural observatories elsewhere.

SACO: measuring and valuing South Africa’s cultural and creative economy

Professor Haines said SACO had been established in 2015 with the purpose of developing and supporting the collection and analysis of evidence, influencing policy, sharing insights and building intellectual capacity across the arts, culture and heritage sector. SACO did this by working across the breadth of the cultural domains, including the arts, heritage, tourism, museums, libraries and archives and creative industries.

The project was in the third quarter of its third and final year, and concluded within NMMU on 31 March 2018.

SACO was achieving the outcome of its research agenda by awarding bursaries. They were expected to award 12 bursaries over three years, and to date had awarded 14, with a final call for applications currently under way.

Furthermore, SACO had developed a framework for the monitoring and evaluation of publicly funded arts, culture and heritage. This had been done through a series of monitoring and evaluation reports. For the six live events tracked in 2016, Mzansi Golden Economy funding had been R25.3 million, total organiser spending had been R129.3 million, and the combined economic impact on their host economies had been R364.63 million.

Key SACO research findings were:

• In 2015, cultural occupations made up 2.5% of all employment in SA, making it the third largest source of employment.
• Including non-cultural “support” occupations, the cultural and creative industries (CCI’s) employed 4.2% of all those who had a job in 2015.
• Altogether, the “cultural economy” accounted for an estimated 6.7% of all employment in South Africa.
• The visual arts and crafts domain made up 52% of CCI occupations in South Africa.
• The next largest domains were books, information and press and design and creative services.
• Most cultural employment was found in Gauteng (31.5% of all cultural jobs), KwaZulu-Natal (15.5%) and the Western Cape (15.1%).
• Cultural clusters in the visual arts and crafts domain were identified in Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape.
• The visual arts and crafts domain was an important contributor to cultural goods export growth.
• There was a positive trade balance in the cultural and natural heritage domain.
• South Africa had extremely high cultural goods trade imbalances with China and India (with imports much greater than exports).
• Visual arts and crafts, books and press, and cultural and natural heritage were the most important export domains for cultural trade with Brazil.
• Cultural and natural heritage and visual arts and crafts were the most important export domains for China.
• Visual arts and crafts, and performance and celebration were important export domains for India.
• South African exports in audio-visual services have been growing since 2014.
• An important priority was the improvement of data collection for CCI trade in both goods and services.

Prof Haines was also very happy to share news on the development of the South African Festivals Economic Impact Calculator (SAFEIC) with the Committee. SAFEIC was a free online tool developed by SACO, specifically for cultural festival and event organisers so they could track the economic impact of their events.

SACO was also currently conducting an independent socio-economic assessment of the 2017 White Paper on arts, culture and heritage at the request of the Department of Arts & Culture.


After the presentation, the Chairperson said the information given had been needed since the onset of the Committee’s term. The question about how the programmes of the Department impacted on society had been asked from Day One, without a satisfactory answer. Stats SA had even called and asked how arts and culture was able to create jobs. The Committee was of the opinion that artists created jobs and that they were not job seekers. Stats SA had replied that they were not able to provide such information. That information was needed, because the Department could not spend money without knowing what the impact of that expenditure was. She asked what the thoughts of the Department were, as SACO was a project and a project had a beginning and an end. What value was this project adding to the DAC?

Ms Tsoleli was also interested in how long the project would last. It was said that the initial process started in 2011, but it was established only in 2015. They had taken a long time to establish SACO. She suggested that the Department should maybe answer the Chairperson’s question before the Committee moved on.  

The Chairperson said that DAC was walking at a snail’s pace in everything they did. She repeated her words of the morning: “they have a non-responsive Department.”

Ms Combrinck’s first point was around the value of arts, culture and heritage. For too long, the DAC had been regarded as a Department of entertainment. Now, for the first time, its vast contribution with its various linkages could be understood. Work could be focussed around sector specific interventions. A clustered approach was important. The work of officials in the Department must be re-aligned -- for example, the multimedia directorate within Cultural Development must not only have real linkages within the film and video industry, but with the broader development within the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The first impact was that the staffing of the Department should have a more efficient administration, and an understanding that different sectors were more connected than they were apart. The importance of restructuring the Department -- to get away from the “silo-mentality” and to look toward connections – had been seen.

In the past two months, the process to overhaul or revise the Mzansi Golden Economy (MGE) strategy had started. The emphasis should be on projects that were able to be sustained or to sustain themselves rather than cultural events which tended to promote seasonal work. Questions that were asked were: How did the Department effectively manage exit strategies from flagship projects that the Department had been involved in for 15 to18 years? How would the Department support new projects on a much larger level?

The information on sector strategies was very valuable. In the future, funding should not have a “hit-and-miss approach,” but should come from a far more scientific basis.

Ms Combrinck said the notion of a need for a cultural observatory had started way before 2011. In 2008, workshops around the matter had already been held. It had taken a long time to develop into a concrete research agenda. She acknowledged the slow pace of funding and responses to funding within the Department. She was confident that the Department could not only increase, but qualitatively increase, the economic and social impact of the arts in people’s lives.

The Chairperson replied that the direct question was what the Department thought about the project now that it had seen what they had done. She repeated that a project had a beginning and an end.

Ms Combrinck answered that the Department would continue with its research focus through a cultural observatory. The NMMU had a three-year contract with the Department that had arisen out of a tender process. Plans were already afoot with references that had been established, and the supply chain management process for the next phase of the cultural observatory had been entered into.

The Chairperson asked how exactly that would unfold. What were the implications of a tender process? Could somebody from Cape Town, for example, get the tender?

Ms Combrinck answered that the intention was to open it up to everybody. NMMU had won the tender the first time, and the project now had to be extended through supply chain management. Researchers or institutions throughout the country would be able to apply.

Ms Tsoleli responded that they now had more questions than ever. She wished that the senior DDG was there to provide more answers. She confessed she was not educated, but even as a laymen she could see that having someone start something, and then having it go out on tender, could be problematic. Moving one project to different people every few years did not make sense. This research was needed, and the entity made sense -- more than many other entities. Also, the work and research could not be completed in three years if one was really being serious. She commended SACO for what they had done so far - the work was important.

She asked how much had been given for the project. The University should say if the commissioned amount was enough for the work they had had to deliver. The fact that there were not page numbers on the presentation troubled her, and where the key evaluation was given, it was not adequate. It would have been better to know the impact on the actual people per event. She remembered that at a time it had been said by the Minister that the Macufe Festival was a risk to the fiscus. She knew the Macufe Festival as a place where people got drunk. Were people really benefiting, or were the organisers taking a too large a chunk of the income? Social cohesion and nation building had to be measured.

Ms Tsoleli complimented SACO in their website, but said she was found the use of the economic impact calculator challenging. Also, she wanted to know why it was said that some of the research was not comparable. Was it 12 bursaries per year, or 12 bursaries in three years? Why was the University of the Free State not among the universities that received bursaries? Had SACO contributed to the current form of the White Paper on arts and culture?

Mr G Grootboom (DA) said that a number of years ago, he had asked the Provincial Department how money for “Festival A” and “Festival B” contributed to the fiscus. The answer had been that the DAC was not a money-making Department. However, proceeds which were taken at the gate had vanished between the gate and the Department. There were wonderful reports on jobs created in the sector, but the annual report from the DAC did not reflect the same rosy picture in terms of jobs being created. Did the Department not have tracking mechanisms to determine the number of jobs being created? Were they then “thumb-sucking” the figure they gave at the end of their report? Like Ms Tsoleli, he was concerned over public engagement around the White Paper. Had the Committee been informed of the national conference that was hosted with government money in March 2017? He and Ms Tsoleli would have liked to have attended the event to broaden their inside view of what happened in the sector.

Dr Mulder said arts and culture was important and interesting for him, but it was his experience that arts and culture was a luxury in the sense that when the economy went down, that was one of the first things lost. That was a concern considering the space and time where South Africa was now. Being an old professor from the North West University, he asked if the bursaries were for specific research. How did SACO make sure that the research fitted in, to make a contribution? The Committee always needed answers on the specific economic impact of the festivals, to help it argue the importance of them. Were there any reasons why the festivals in the guide to using the SAFEIC were selected? Why focus only on those? What were the rules around the project, for surely there could be an argument around whether the Department could host it in-house? What happened to the people who got jobs through the project when it went to another university? He also wanted to have some background of the people seated in front of the Committee. 

The Chairperson said the slow response she had referred to was not only about funding. It was about everything. The DAC took a lifetime to respond to questions. A pen was not even needed to respond to people. The Committee did not want people to depend on them, but to depend on the Department.

Ms Combrinck replied that the amount of funding for SACO was R45 million over three years, in instalments of R15 million.

Prof Haines said that the budgets were indicated in the business plans at the back of the document. Because of VAT, and NMMU being very obedient to SARS, it came down to R39 million for the three years.

Mr Grootboom asked if SACO paid for the bursaries.

Prof Haines replied SACO paid for the bursaries via the university. He said that the individual economic impact of the various festivals should actually be downloadable, and they would work on that. SACO would finish off a large evaluation project in the final quarter and a special presentation, directly or through Skype, was possible.

He answered Dr Mulder that there was a Committee looking at the bursary requests, and that SACO tried for a geographic spread.

He answered Mr Grootboom that the conference invitation had been done through the database that they had grown by themselves. They would certainly make sure that the Committee received special invitations for the next conference.

SACO had chosen the festivals to analyse economically at the request of the DAC because they were the larger and flagship ones. Currently they were looking at the overall spend for economic and impact assessment and they would hopefully come up with a substantive assessment on the impact of MGE spending. Certainly the spending would have broader economic implications, as there would be a multiplier at work there. Cultural spending could have reasonable returns and economic benefits unless there were duplications of efforts, or double dipping when one area received multiple funding input. It may be that the DAC, in their report, looked at specific instead of general jobs created. There was certainly scope to make sure SACO information was directly put into the DAC.

He answered Ms Tsoleli that the unscientific data referred to data that was inherited, like survey data. There was, for instance, a significant difference between the Stats SA and United Nations classifications for data. The categories for cultural and creative industry work were not always found. There was a suggestion to set up a satellite account for the cultural and creative economy, but there was still some confusion at the international level.

Mr Mphikeleli Mnguni, Deputy Director: DAC, said his background was as a researcher. He answered the question about the Department and the time it took, saying that there was a process that led to development through the recommendations of consultants, when a need to measure was realised. Conceptualisation was still a challenge, and it took time for the Department to understand. The discrepancy between what was said on that day in terms of job creation and the DAC report was explained in a document that the Committee received. There was a model on p10 that showed three different ways in which artists were employed. 

Mr Njabulo Sithebe, Head of Research: NMMU said his background was as an economist, and that his previous project had been on the topic of climate change. He answered questions on the White Paper process by saying that SACO was not part of the drafting team of the current White Paper. Their job had been to do the socio-economic impact, and they were in discussions with the panel drafting the paper from time to time.

The Chairperson said the Department should respond on the White Paper issue, because they had said they would be done with it in September, and it was now November. She said the Committee never pressurised them, they just asked. Everything that was discussed went back to the White Paper.

Ms Unathi Lutshaba, Research Manager: NMMU, responded to the question on the bursaries, and said that they had sat down the day before to review the 81 applications they had received. There was indeed one application from the University of the Free State, but the applicant was in the United Kingdom. SACO did not know if she was South African, but they would communicate the outcome. SACO would be happy to assist Ms Tsoleli on the use of their festivals impact calculator.   

The Chairperson said the questions on the impact of the festivals on artists themselves should be answered. During the past weekend, the Chairperson had spoken to an artist who had told her that they did not benefit. The festivals could be the crowd-puller, but ordinary up-and-coming artists should also benefit. It was important for the Committee to be able to use the festivals impact calculator – even after their term ended, they would be able to use it in their constituencies.

Prof Haines said that the University of the Free State would be among those invited to a specialised workshop that would look at the interaction of culture and social theory. SACO had expanded their networks significantly. He had recently had a meeting facilitated by the University of Toulouse, as part of the application for European Union funding for multi-country study of cultural rights that would include Brazil, France, Belgium and the UK. Networks with universities were being established internationally, which was a cost effective way of establishing a funding scheme.

Research had significant policy implications, and SACO was looking at running a workshop with the DAC, provincial local players and interested parties. By improving institutional structures, the operation in that sector would improve and have spin-offs. A number of issues in the cultural and creative economy involve other departments, like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the Department of Public Works (DPW) and the Department of Defence (DoD). An example of that was that thr companies found in the four megatrends of the cultural and creative industry – artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, and blockchain or cryptography (eg Paypal and Bitcoin) – were working in the defence industry. It was therefore not too surprising that work done in one sector could spill over to economic benefits for another sector. Government must look for more multi-party processes. He said that the Minister of Finance, Mr Malusi Gigaba, in his speech had gone back to public-private partnerships as an important way to leverage on state resources. The DAC could have a broad and sustaining impact on new sectors in the country.

The Chairperson said that it was important for the DAC to look at integration within the Department. They were working in silos. The Department should look at the way they were operating, because if they more integrated they would be able to assist society more effectively. The DAC could belong to the economic cluster. SACO’s research could assist the Department to be able to argue their case within economic cluster.

Mr Grootboom said SACO’s perspective on the White Paper was still needed.

Prof Haines answered that SACO was engaged to do a socio economic impact assessment and that they made good progress so far with that. They were not part of the review process.

Mr Sithebe answered that SACO was looking at the prescribed methodology and current gaps in the development of the White Paper. Once they had addressed the gaps they would be able to say if it fitted in with the prescribed standards.

Mr Grootboom said that was again a silo approach, for it looked only at one view. Perhaps the White Paper should be interrogated.

The Chairperson asked when the Department would be done with everything. The Committee needed the White Paper as soon as the day before. Everything went back to the White Paper. It had been in process when the Committee’s term started, and it was still in process. When would the to-ing and fro-ing end?

Mr Sithebe said SACO’s small part – a technical socio-eco impact study -- would be done in a month. They would give feedback to the Department, who would engage with the drafters. He was not able to give a date.

The Chairperson said it looked as if the Committee would not get the White Paper in their term. They should not be dismayed, as the information that they had received that day was what they had wanted from the start, as the Committee believed that arts and culture could be at the centre of society. The work that SACO had done would help the Department to come out of the periphery. The Committee wanted to make sure that everybody noticed the DAC, and that the DAC should be pro-active and responsive. As the project ended soon, the Department should have plans before that happened. If they failed, society would fail.

The questions that the Department had not respond to should be answered at the next meeting. As far as bursaries went, the Committee wanted to see a reflection of all the provinces benefiting. She thanked SACO, saying that their footprint should be national.

The meeting was adjourned. 

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