Published on Jobs and Development

Nurturing creativity: how development organizations can support the growth of “orange jobs”

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Students creating art Students creating art

The creative economy, also known as the “orange economy,” covers everything from art and films to video games, fashion, and music. One key characteristic of these sectors is that their services and products rely on talent, creativity, and intellectual assets as the main input.

S4YE’s report, “Orange Economy: As a Driver of Jobs for Youth,” examines the vital role that cultural and creative sectors play as sources of income generation and drivers of job creation. In this installation of our blog series about the orange economy, we highlight five ways development organizations can support the growth of more, better, and inclusive “orange jobs.”

1) Nurturing human capital

Few developing countries have formal and quality educational opportunities for young people interested creative careers.  Also, many young entrepreneurs don’t possess the business management skills to commercialize their creative ideas.  

Technical and vocational skills training and business development services equip youth with occupation-specific and business management skills. The Hope Raisers Initiative, a community-based organization in Nairobi’s Korogocho informal settlement, established its creative hub to provide ‘art-preneurship’ skills training and mentorship to young men and women. In South Africa, Harambee and the Spier Arts Academy  partnered to offer long-term apprenticeship opportunities for youth to become certified mosaic and ceramic artisans. The program supports candidates by providing studio space, access to materials, and logistics support to help them establish independent studios. Some graduates have become mosaic and ceramic teachers, while others run their own studios.

2) Providing access to finance

Traditionally, the cultural and creative industries have heavily depended on public funds or grants, since they tend to be valued more for their cultural rather than commercial value.

Start-up grants and microfinance designed explicitly for the creative sector would help experimentation and innovation.  Some commercial banks, such as the Nigerian Import Export Bank (NEXIM) and the Cultural Bank of Cabo Verde, offer loans for entrepreneurs in the creative industry, allowing for longer payback times and concessionary financing. The HEVA Fund, an African fund in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda, promotes start-ups in music, film, fashion, crafts, gaming, performing arts, and tourism.

In Latin America, IDB’s Orange Innovation Challenge used business plan competitions to provide grants to business models that demonstrate innovations to enhance creative and cultural activities, use innovative technologies, are financially sustainable, and have economic and social impact.

3) Expanding access to market

Entrepreneurs and small companies in the creative and cultural sectors have limited resources for marketing and building a brand. Trade fairs and international festivals such as the MICSUR, Mercado de Industrias Culturales del Sur, can help link creative entrepreneurs and SMEs with regional and international buyers. The first MICSUR held in Argentina in 2014 drew over 3,000 cultural and creative entrepreneurs in performing arts, design, film, and music from across South America; and  60 percent of the participants successfully made commercial agreements at the event.

Meanwhile, Fashionomics Africa, supported by the African Development Bank, created a digital marketplace website and app to help African entrepreneurs, particularly women and youth, in the fashion and textile industries to connect entrepreneurs to suppliers, buyers, and investors and strengthen the global value chain of Africa’s fashion industry.

4) Building networks and clusters

About 30 percent of workers in the cultural sector are self-employed. The share of self-employed is even higher among women, particularly in developing countries. 

A community hub, co-working space, or makerspace enables creative entrepreneurs to work with other entrepreneurs and exchange knowledge while achieving economies of scale. LAB Fashion, for example, is a co-working space for entrepreneurs in fashion in Sao Paulo, Brazil that offers entrepreneurs private and meeting rooms as well as shared access to textiles, mannequins, photo studios, and sewing machines.

Area-based approaches, including tourism promotion, can be effective for local creative and cultural workers. The World Bank’s Cultural Heritage and Urban Development Project in Lebanon rehabilitated heritage sites and provided municipal services in historic cities, helping SMEs deliver much needed jobs to local communities, in the culture and tourism sectors.  The project helped the conservation of the Temples in Baalbeck, where the Annual International Festival employs on average 2000 workers.  Similarly, in the historic city of Byblos, for each 1 dollar invested by the project in public infrastructure and heritage conservation, the private sector invested 7 dollars in SMEs, turning the city into an international hub for creativity, culture, tourism, and local jobs.

5) Harnessing digital technology

Opportunities created by digital technology


Online platforms and social networks enable creative professionals to collaborate, engage with consumers, and gain access to knowledge and new ideas.  Music streaming channels and e-commerce platforms lower intermediation costs and widen audiences. This rapid digital revolution makes it critical to provide upskilling opportunities in both basic and digital skills.

For instance, the World Bank’s Youth Employment in the Digital Animation Industry (YEDAI) Project helps to improve the employability of Jamaican youth by using digital technology to support a thriving animation sector in Jamaica while effectively building a tech entrepreneurship ecosystem.


This blog is the second part of a series about the orange economy based on S4YE’s Orange Economy: As a Driver of Jobs for Youth note. In our first blog, we discussed five reasons why the cultural and creative sectors are important for creating more, better and inclusive jobs in developing countries.


Namita Datta

Program Manager, Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE)

Maho Hatayama

Economist, Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice

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