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
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
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.