Cape Town is one of the oldest port cities in Africa and home to four and a half million citizens. Coupled with its natural beauty the city of Cape Town has a dynamic and complex history that was designed by the social engineering of colonialism and apartheid, which valued isolation and separation. But, since the start of its democracy in 1994, Cape Town has used creativity and design as tools in the ongoing process of rebuilding, reconnecting and repositioning the city to transform lives and to build a better, more resilient city for all.
Cape Town’s growing reputation as an ideas and creative city and one of the creative capitals of Africa, represents a culture of creative problem solvers, designers and social innovators. In 2014 the gross value of the contribution of the Creative Industries was estimated at US$1 billion and provided approximately 27,760 jobs in Cape Town, which amounted to 2.2% of the total formal employment in the city. The 2019 South African Cultural Observatory Report indicated that Cape Town’s reputation as a creative and cultural city presents a great advantage to Cape Town’s Creative Sectors as it provides them with a suitable base to reach South African and International Markets. The report also indicated that the Design Sector in Cape Town is mostly interdisciplinary as it combines technology and creative inputs with high levels of innovation (82% of firms) in business processes, goods and services. More than a third of firms (35%) are start-ups. Within the Creative Sector the largest group of firms focus on Designed products and Creative Services (49%), followed by Visual Art and Craft (20%), Audio Visual and Interactive Media (18%), Performance and Celebration (7%), Books and Press (7%) and Cultural and Natural Heritage (3%). Gender distribution of business owners are relatively equal: 42% of owners are women and 50,5% are men.
Our creative and design community is supported by a number of annual creative and design-related events, like the globally acclaimed Design Indaba, Open Design Afrika Festival, The CoCreate Design Festival, The Innovation Summit, Open Streets Cape Town, Cape Town Carnival, and many more.
As the first World Design Capital (2014) from the developing world, focus was placed in Cape Town on applying transformative design to create solutions to address urban challenges. Building on this, as the first UNESCO City of Design in Africa since 2017, Cape Town functions as a point of intersection for its Creative Industries and a vehicle for integration and connectedness with other sectors, its rich diverse cultures, and the wellbeing of all its citizens and their environments. It is intended that the designation act as a catalyst for the creation of valuable partnerships, developing Cape Town’s design sector, sharing and creating knowledge, growing new markets and increasing the city’s ability to achieve inclusive, urban sustainable development.
Looking to the future, Cape Town’s challenge is to use arts, culture and design to reconnect and reposition the city, healing historic wounds and creating a shared vision of the city as one of the most vibrant and progressive in all of Africa. The Cape Town UNESCO Creative City of Design team firmly believes that inclusive design can spark innovation, inspire hope, and improve people’s lives.