We use the products of the creative industries every day: for example, when we look at social media, watch films, listen to music, walk around town or go shopping. The creative economy sector includes art, design, fashion, animation, computer game development, architecture and urbanism, film, television, new media, music and sound design, marketing and communications, publishing, journalism, creative education and others. Creative industries are one of the key drivers of the modern economy. The 29.5 million jobs in the creative industries are more than the automotive industry in Europe, the US and Japan combined (25 million).

For a long time, creativity in Kazakhstan was considered an unprofitable endeavor. But the situation has changed. Creativity is in demand in many areas of life, especially after the pandemic. Today, to make a profit, companies need to stand out – to create a unique product, to find new ways of interacting with customers and to keep them interested. Creative industries help solve these problems. Creative industries grow even in times of crisis because there are no fixed factors of production – it is the creative activity of people that needs brains. This creates new businesses, which in turn create new jobs.

Today, 95 thousand people are employed in the creative industry, investments in fixed capital amount to 33.3 billion tenge, the number of operating business entities is 32 thousand units, and the contribution of the creative industry to the economy of Kazakhstan is about 2.7%. Creative industries are developing in Astana, Almaty and Shymkent. In general, creative industries have a positive impact on public life and we need to strengthen our work in this direction.

Creative industries have a high gross value added. Over 10 years, this indicator has tripled in Kazakhstan, but the share of the creative industries in Kazakhstan’s GDP has remained the same – around 3%. For comparison, countries with developed creative economies spend on average 19 times more than Kazakhstan on supporting the creative industries as a percentage of GDP. Today, the problem of developing the creative economy in Kazakhstan is being actively studied and various solutions are being sought. The state also understands the need to develop the creative economy.

On 30 November 2021, the Government of Kazakhstan approved the concept of development of the creative economy for 2021-2025. According to this document, by 2025 the contribution of creative industries to Kazakhstan’s economy should increase to 5%; employment in creative industries – up to 4%; the number of SMEs in creative industries – 1.5 times.

The concept is expected to result in the creation of 30,000 new jobs and an increase in exports of creative industry products by $200 million. Since the beginning of 2022, the Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Department of Creative Tourism and Creative Industries of JSC “NC “Kazakh Tourism” have been working on promoting the legislative inclusion of creative industries in the Law “On Culture” and the Code of Entrepreneurship. The head of state signed a law formalizing the concept of creative industries in Kazakhstan. The task of developing creative industries was outlined by the President in his address to the people of Kazakhstan. The key principles of development should be the equality of academic (museums, biennials, exhibitions, public art) and market integration (auctions, fairs, galleries, art consulting), where the development of art and its commercialization (monetization) will be equally important for the state, as well as the maximum removal of industries from the shadows.

When we talk about the development of creative industries in the regions, there are already a number of positive effects. For example, the increase in the cost of housing in the area of the main attractions. Such attractions can be creative clusters and visitor centres, guesthouses, etc. In Astana, the creative centre Ozge Epic gathers creative intellectuals on its premises. It hosts theatre productions and creative evenings that address important social issues. At the end of 2023, the Art Hub Amanat creative centre was opened in Shymkent. This is a successful and colourful project aimed at developing and supporting Made in KZ products. It showcases the products of Kazakh producers of clothing, textiles, footwear and accessories. It also hosts master classes, fashion shows, music and creative evenings. Now that centre is looking for an investor to open a special gastronomic café.

It is worth noting that Kazakhstan’s gastronomy is also becoming extremely interesting for the local and global market. For example, the city of Almaty was ranked 25th in the prestigious list of “52 places to visit in the New Year” published by the New York Times. “The growing importance of gastronomic culture is increasingly visible in Almaty. The ‘neo-nomadic’ cuisine, based on flour, water and meat, is taking on innovative forms,” the publication notes. Many have already heard of Tary Ethno cafe, one of Kazakhstan’s most popular cafes, which has expanded its presence by opening a branch in Chicago in October 2023.

More generally, creative clusters and cities attract citizens and tourists and serve as a platform for the manifestation of local entrepreneurship. According to the Office for National Statistics, as of 1 January 2023, the creative industry included 248.2 thousand active legal entities and individual entrepreneurs, or 13.8% of all legal entities and 13.1% of all individual entrepreneurs.

To date, major local and international projects have been realized in the country. A breakthrough project was the release of the first virtual clothing collection for the physical brand Global Nomads in cooperation with the agency Digit IN, which was placed on the NFT platform and became the start of a new project – the Astana Ballet Theatre plans to create a collection of virtual ballet costumes and place them on the NFT platform. The Digital Bridge International IT Forum in 2023 brought together more than 30,000 participants, including delegations from 30 countries, representatives of more than 300 IT companies, 450 speakers, more than 100 investors and business angels, and more than 150 start-ups. I moderated a session on creative industries with Timur Bekmambetov, Ernist Umetaliev, Ernar Kurmashev, Mikhail Bychenok and Olzhas Baimagambetov. Each of the speakers represents different areas of the creative industries and works with famous artists around the world. And all participants noted how the situation in this segment has changed positively in our country over the last 2-3 years.

Today, countries, cities and regions within the country, as well as individual companies, are competing for the best specialists, leaders of extraordinary ideas and creators of innovations. I would say that “creativity is a national trait of Kazakhstanis” and we can make a powerful breakthrough through the creative sector in the next 5-7 years.

by Irina Kharitonova,
Expert on cultural and creative industries
in Central Asia, Europe and the CIS,
Director of the Public Foundation for Sustainable Development of Central Asia Creative
& Innovation Institute