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Andrea Davis pushes for brand Jamaica plan...

Published:Sunday | May 15, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Andrea Davis (second right) speaks with from left: Ibo Cooper, Levaughn Flynn and Nickeisha Barnes during International Reggae Day last year at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel. Davis has advocated for a national undertaking to make an industry out of the creative economy. - Nathaniel Stewart/Freelance Photographer

... Calls reggae 'the soundtrack to international appeal' in UN document

Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer

In her contribution to the United Nations publication, 'Creative Economy 2010', Andrea Davis underscores the much touted view that the Jamaican government should focus on the creative industries in order to grow the economy.

The organiser of International Reggae Day observed annually on July 1, told The Sunday Gleaner that the landmark publication "is trying to bring into focus creativity as a development strategy, especially for developing nations". Davis said she contributed to the chapter on Central America and the Caribbean, with an insert on Jamaica.

In that insert, titled 'Brand Jamaica as the home of reggae', she writes:

"Creativity represents one of Jamaica's most distinguishable assets and competitive advantages as a country. Through its music, fashion, dance and cuisine Jamaican culture continues to influence and impact global pop culture as it has done since the introduction of Garveyism, Rastafari and reggae music. The United Nations estimates that the creative industries are growing at a faster rate than the world economy in general. Yet there is still a critical lack of empirical statistics on the contribution of Jamaican music or creative industries to national GDP [Gross Domestic Product]. This has resulted in repeated undervaluation of this sector in an array of studies, with estimates ranging from $1.5 billion to $1.7 billion in generated revenue."

A trade surplus

The report's index shows that, according to the latest data up to 2008 then available, Jamaica had a trade surplus of US$6 million with exports at US$39 million to imports of US$33 million.

She had a lot to pack into that insert, as Davis said "brand Jamaica has been part of my core experience". Part of that experience has been with Toots Hibbert's management. However, Davis pointed out that she has also been engaged from an analytical perspective as well, saying "it is also something I have been asked to speak on in various fora". She has spoken in China, Brazil and Caribbean countries.

In laying the groundwork for the report, Davis said "I have been working with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for the past few years as part of a worldwide team that has been contributing to the dialogue on the creative economy".

Subsequent to the report being published, Davis said the World Intellectual Property Organisation has published a report done in collaboration with the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office which puts the value of copyright to the economy at 4.8 per cent of GDP.

But while Davis is sure of the increased contribution that the creative industries can make to the Jamaican economy, she says "part of our issue is that we do not have an overall plan". And symptomatic of this is the splintering of various agencies and services, such as copyright, brand value and trade implications.

In addition, there is no overarching vision like there is for tourism, "that allows all the inputs to plug in, to close all the loopholes".

Critical loopholes

Those loopholes are critical, as Davis observes "we do not have a lot of money to waste".

Davis also opines "you can't sponsor development. You have to have a long-term, integrated, sustainable plan that is driven by specific targets and objectives and supported by a budget". She places heavy emphasis on 'budget', noting there are many proposals, but they are not underpinned by the required finances. "They are a wish list," Davis said.

And there is no replacing the initial input that signals seriousness to the market. We have to invest to attract investment," Davis said. "We do not need a bag of grant money. What we need is venture funding at a competitive rate. What we need is access to technology, so we can be more competitive on the world stage in something that that we have already established ourselves as being competitive at the international level".

"Reggae is the sound track to brand Jamaica," Davis said. "The music that the world loves is reggae, whether we play it or not. But it is not integrated as a core part of the plan ... . It can't become part of the movement when we are the Olympics."