Cultural and creative industries

Cultural and creative industries already contribute almost five per cent to Lebanon’s GDP and over four per cent to national employment. These numbers become even more significant when taking into account the general absence of public support and of a clear development strategy. In fact, the strength and dynamism of cultural and creative industries in Lebanon are rooted in multifaceted cultural influences, deep-rooted private initiatives and the country’s privileged geographical location. Beirut, for instance, has been regaining and consolidating its role as a regional hub in design, advertising, architecture, fashion, gastronomy and publishing — even if the related value chains are often not completely covered and if some important linkages (such as collaborative work and initiatives, investments, etc.) are still weak. The national industrial production base is also limited, even though efforts to revive local production have been recorded. Still, the current flourishing of Beirut’s design ecosystem sharply contrasts with the mixed fortune endured in the last decades by most of Lebanon’s traditional crafts; several craft hubs, agglomerating hundreds of producers in different Lebanese regions, have lost their critical mass or are no longer active. There is however a growing consciousness in favour of their revitalization, with rallying voices of academia, the private sector, development organizations, NGOs and civil society. And, while technical know-how is commonly recognized to be still available locally, marketing is identified as the crafts’ main hurdle, which calls for the upgrading of designs (through stronger and more regular linkages between artisans and design professionals) and the enhancement of business skills.


Existing cluster framework and cluster programmes

The focus of the country’s economic efforts historically has been towards sectorial programmes, and it is now shifting towards the establishment of industrial zones in remote areas, with the objective of regrouping enterprises and other agents in common locations, offering facilities and fostering economies of scale as well as the development of better infrastructures. The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon (IDAL) has been providing incentives to encourage Lebanese entrepreneurs to invest in remote areas and generate employment. In addition, IDAL occasionally subsidizes the participation of Lebanese firms from certain sectors in international trade fairs. However, no specific public policy has been set up yet to support the development of cluster initiatives on a national basis. Lebanon is also characterized by the strong role played by its private sector, through enterprises and through their representations. The Lebanese private sector has already expressed its interest in the cluster concept, even though this collective culture is relatively new: in 2010, the Lebanon Creative Cluster was created with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to focus on advancing creative industries in Lebanon; unfortunately, the initiative did not succeed. In 2011, the Beirut Creative Cluster, with the financial support of the European Union, was incepted to gather enterprises positioned on several different segments of information and communications technology. The existence of previous experiences is a very positive sign for the progressive development of more projects to facilitate the emergence of cluster initiatives. Today, the implication of the Association of Lebanese Industrialists (ALI) in a program to support the furniture cluster in Tripoli is another element that reinforces the attractiveness of this concept in order to facilitate development and to foster the competitiveness of traditional and innovative sectors.


Potential clusters in cultural and creative industries

The mapping exercise allowed for the identification of the following clusters:

  • Audiovisual and multimedia in Beirut (Beirut Creative Cluster)
  • Contemporary art in Beirut
  • Copper crafts in Tripoli and El Qalamoun
  • Cutlery in Jezzine
  • Furniture in Mkalles
  • Furniture in Tripoli
  • Haute couture in Beirut
  • High-end habitat design in Beirut
  • Home textiles in El Fekha and Arsal
  • Jewellery in Bourj Hammoud and Beirut
  • Leather in Bourj Hammoud
  • Marble and granite in Wata Mousseitbeh (Beirut)
  • Publishing in Beirut
  • Traditional clothing in Saida


Other economic realities in cultural and creative industries

Several former clusters exist that have considerably lost their critical mass or are no longer active:

  • Basketry/straw weaving in Baissour: the know-how was introduced through a development initiative but the cluster remained inactive
  • Basketry/straw weaving in Kweshra: the know-how is available but there is at present no production due to the lack of a market
  • Basketry/straw weaving in the Beqaa Valley: former cluster, which is no longer active
  • Copper crafts in Saida: only one or two workshops remain
  • Furniture in Saida: only a few workshops remain
  • Glass blowing in Sarafand: only one workshop remains
  • Leather production in Machghara: the sector is not active
  • Loom weaving in Zouk Mikael: only 12 individual workshops remain for the production of clothing and home textiles


Former clusters targeted by present/potential revitalization attempts (development initiatives):

  • Revival of local crafts production in Byblos (for example glass blowing)
  • Strengthening needlework handicrafts and jewellery workshops in Anjar


Flourishing sectors (geographical concentrations without critical mass or sufficient value chain coverage):

  • In addition to the identified marble and granite cluster in Wata Mousseitbeh (Beirut), there are other geographical concentrations of manufacturers of decorative building materials in Lebanon, such as those in Zekreet (Greater Beirut) and Jezzine. However, these are not as renowned and consolidated and their value chain coverage is not as complete as that of the Wata Mousseitbeh cluster
  • Mentioned in some specialized reports as a promising sector, the Lebanese cinema, which is concentrated in Beirut, is mostly characterized by an independent wave of production and a low annual number of Lebanese films


The two selected clusters

Jewellery cluster in Bourj Hammoud:

  • Sector: jewellery sector in Beirut (Bourj Hammoud area)
  • Strengths: the proposal was based both on a strong group of actors of a very consistent cluster and on a strong diagnostic and a clear strategy. The critical mass is significant; the link with heritage is natural and consolidated; the location in Beirut represents a positive element for the cluster. The sector also benefits from a very good reputation in the region and the local dynamics managed by Badguèr look promising
  • Weaknesses: no elements were presented regarding the management of environmental issues. The strategic planning presented in the proposals was limited and lacked more detailed actions lines and milestones


Furniture cluster in Tripoli:

  • Sector: furniture sector in Tripoli
  • Strengths: the furniture sector and woodcarving are emblematic of the city of Tripoli. The local agents of this cluster are numerous and consolidated, providing a very good coverage of the value chain. The strategic challenge (namely the repositioning) was clearly presented in the cluster’s application and the strategy is consolidated and aligned with this diagnostic. The cluster’s potential seems very significant in light of the importance of this sector for the local economy
  • Weaknesses: the application’s comments about support entities highlight a potential area for improvement. The proposed planning is limited and few details are provided. Export capacity is very limited at the moment


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