The big picture

Measuring the economic impact of an event is an exact exercise. It’s possible to do the maths and 

determine the Rands and cents an event contributes to the gross domestic product (GDP) of a region 

or a country, as well as calculating its impact on other variables such as job creation, publicity 

generated and more. 

In a report prepared by Prof. Kamilla Swart of Kamilla-SA Sport and Tourism Consultancy in 2013, the 

economic impact of the Design Indaba, South Africa’s foremost design entrepreneurial event, is 

examined over a period of five years. You may be surprised to see the difference that the Indaba has 

made on the economy of a region. 

The Design Indaba brings together the brightest talent from across the creative fields, including 

graphic design, advertising, film, music, fashion, jewellery, industrial design, architecture, urban 

upliftment, sustainable design, craft, visual art, digital design, publishing, broadcasting and 

performance art. 

Today this major creative event consists of the Design Indaba Conference, one of the world’s leading 

design get-togethers with more than 40 speakers and 2 500 delegates annually, the Design Indaba 

Expo that provides a commercial platform for South African designers to showcase local goods and 

services to the global market through influential international buyers and other related events. 

From a Western Cape perspective the Indaba generates income, creates jobs and sustains 

livelihoods. From a national perspective the Design Indaba showcases the country’s creative talent 

and contributes significantly to export revenues. The report calculating the economic impact of the 

event states that “the Design Indaba raises the profile and awareness of the industry, portraying a 

dynamic image, particularly in light of Cape Town being awarded the Design Capital of 2014”. 

That the Design Indaba follows a winning recipe cannot be disputed. In 2004, 40 exhibitors 

showcased their designs to 8 000 attendees. In 2013 there were ten events, attracting in excess of 

40 000 visitors, including 650 design students who attended the simulcast of the conference and 800 

scholars who attended the Expo. The greatest portion of delegates to the 2013 conference was from 

elsewhere in South Africa (51%), followed closely by the Western Cape (45%). The rest were 

international delegates (4%). 

Macroeconomic contribution of the 2013 Design Indaba  

The Design Indaba evaluation report states that there are a number of different types of 

macroeconomic effects, the two most important being contribution to the GDP and job creation. 

The GDP offers the most important and all-encompassing measure of the macroeconomic effect of 

the Indaba. The total contribution to GDP has increased annually from R191.9m in 2009 to R329.8m 

in 2013. This translates to the Indaba contributing R1.3 Billion to over five years. 

The Design Indaba also helps create and sustain various types of jobs, both directly and indirectly. 

Direct jobs are those that result from hosting the event, whereas indirect jobs are those that are due 

to multiplier effects resulting from the different types of spending. With more than thousand full 

and part-time jobs created over the five-year period, the economic impact of the Indaba cannot be 

disputed. 

A growing audience 

The corporate sector is increasingly acknowledging the importance of design, creativity, innovation 

and inspiration in their businesses, from strategic initiatives to the daily running of the business. This 

has resulted in a major shift and expansion of the audience. These days the Indaba attracts middle 

and senior management, marketers from corporate South Africa, design practitioners including 

architects, interior designers, artists, writers, fashion designers, jewellery designers and graphic 

designers, students and academics, the advertising industry, financial services and the 

manufacturing industry, small business owners, entrepreneurs and the general public. 

When it comes to media coverage, the publicity received by the Design Indaba event for 2013 was 

valued at R40 million. The media interest has increased over the past few years and the publicity 

programme rolls out six months prior to the Design Indaba event. 

Finally, the premises fuelling the Design Indaba’s drive for a better world through design, creativity 

and innovation are summed up as Design for change. Design for good. Design for a better world. 

When looking at the economic impact of this event, the Design Indaba has indeed created a better 

world over past two decades.