Nashville in Africa
Nashville, Tennessee, was once a struggling city in one of the poorest regions of the United States. Like much of sub-Saharan Africa today, early 20th century policymakers pinned Nashville’s economic hopes on industrial development founded on access to raw materials and large, government-funded public works projects. These hopes were never fully realised, but Nashville found success anyway – from its creative industries.
Three ingredients led to the emergence of a country music industry in Nashville:
- Strong and unique cultural traditions, particularly in musical story-telling;
- A strong and stable legal institutional environment, which offered protection to property rights, including copyright;
- Conditions which provided the prospect of financial return for the investments of forward-thinking entrepreneurs.
Nashville’s ascent serves as an encouraging example of how creative clusters can make much from little. Its success did not require extensive education, sophisticated infrastructure or the successful execution of large, complicated development projects.
The central role of private action to building creative clusters in Nashville and elsewhere is both bad news and good news for policymakers. The bad news is that there is little governments can do to ensure success for the creative industries. The good news is that these risks can be placed on the shoulders of private parties rather than resource-strapped governments.
Provided they can foresee rewards, the entrepreneurs and artists in the creative industries willingly take these risks themselves. Governments play a lesser – but essential – role in providing the right institutional framework for creative industries through the enforcement of contracts and institutions, such as copyright. These were the conditions that led a handful of risk-taking entrepreneurs to invest in what was an un-exploited resource in the Nashville area – the talents and abilities of local creators.
The development of creative sectors is not a panacea for all less-developed countries. However, the Nashville story illustrates how expansion in the creative sector can contribute to growth elsewhere, which fosters a vibrant and diverse economy.