Saloua Abdelkhalek, Director General of the International Center for the Creative Cultural Economy of Tunis in La Presse: “We want to increase the contribution of the creative economy to GDP”

Creative economy is a research field that is considered an extension of the knowledge economy. The promotion of the creative economy should therefore be a kind of contribution to the transition to the knowledge economy, which is very rich in high value-added and technology-intensive activities. It also is the role that belongs to the Tunis International Center for Creative Cultural Economy, born in 2019. The new center still has a long way to go to make the creative economy an essential component of the creation of added value. We met the director general of the center, Saloua Abdelkhalek, and this, on the sidelines of the debate on the metaverse that took place last week at the Cité de la culture. She sheds light.

Can you tell us about the center and its mission?

The main mission of the center is to create culture, and cultural content, content that has an added economic value. To do this, we have implemented programs that are based on the enhancement of heritage and cultural content. By heritage we mean everything that is material heritage, archaeological sites, monuments, museums but also intangible heritage, in particular culinary heritage, traditional clothing, know-how … The cultural contents concern the creative cultural industries, i.e. video games, design …, in short, any cultural and creative activity as defined by various international institutions such as Unesco and the European Union.

So our goal is to promote cultural and creative industries through digital. The center encourages and supports start-ups and young project leaders to help them launch innovative cultural projects with a digital touch. Through these projects, we work, first of all, on the enhancement of our heritage and our cultural contents through new technologies. This will help us improve Tunisia’s image internationally and promote our destination. Instead, we support young people to enter the job market by helping them launch their startups and enter the market. This shows the importance of this new niche which is the creative economy as well its contribution in terms of jobs for young people and also in terms of growth, especially since the cultural and creative industries contribute on average 3% to international GDP, while in Tunisia, despite the wealth of heritage, culture, of civilization and of man (Tunisia is teeming with young skills in the field of new technologies), the contribution of the creative industry does not exceed 1%. This probably depends on the conception we have of culture, traditionally perceived as a purely social and leisure sector and not as an economic vector, generating jobs that can bring economic added value.

What kind of support does the center provide to young project leaders?

We support startuppers from the very early stages of the project, i.e. from the conception stage. We have a six-month incubation program during which young people can benefit from different training courses covering different subjects such as business model, marketing, copyright, technical and scientific heritage, communication and pitching.

Our goal is to help them prepare so that, at the end of this incubation, they have a complete prototype of their projects.

It is important because it is what will allow them to raise funds and penetrate the market. We also help them get the benefits of the Start Up Act.

The recent meeting organized by the center focused on the theme of the metaverse. Why choose this theme? Do you think that the metaverse offers opportunities to young Tunisians?

During the month of Ramadan we have chosen to deal with various topics. We started with the topic of cultural and creative industries in the age of artificial intelligence. The debate took place last week to bring to the fore the question of the contribution of artificial intelligence to this sector and of the means available that will make it possible to exploit this technology. Now, the debate on the metaverse attempts to illuminate the connection between this new concept and artistic and literary creation. We tried to find answers to the following question: can the metaverse serve as a springboard for these industries and, in general, for artistic and literary creation or will they undergo this transformation? Our goal was to stimulate discussion about the metaverse because we are at a crossroads, or we position ourselves on the new technologies that accompany the arrival of the metaverse, or we remain on the sidelines, especially since the debate takes place in the presence of experts and specialists in creative technologies.

You mentioned the call for creative projects launched at the Francophone Summit to be held this year in Djerba. Can you tell us more?

The call for projects was launched last year. It was a call for associations and startups who propose cultural and creative industry projects that will be presented at the Sommet de la francophonie. We have received some proposals and today we are finalizing them. Indeed, the postponement of the summit allowed candidates to have more time to finalize their projects and prepare digital content. It must be said that this is a golden opportunity for Tunisia because we will try, thanks to digital technology, to give visitors from various origins and French-speaking countries a unique Tunisian experience. Among the selected projects we mention the 3D restitution of archaeological sites, 360 degree tours and virtual tours of monuments and museums. There are applications for the localization of historical sites and monuments with technologies that allow access even to people with disabilities. There are other projects that focus on Djerba, the island that will host the event. I also mention the application dedicated to children “Kids tour” and other immersive projects as the village of la francophonie includes an immersive room in which it is hoped that all these projects will be presented. The selected projects will be examined by the top committee so that they can be viewed in the Tunisian pavilion, or in the other components of the village. If necessary, we can use the events that will be held parallel to the summit to present all these projects.

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