Fostering Creative Industries and Reading: Insights from Abu Dhabi’s 2024 Congress PCI

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Two panels at the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries looked at ways public and private sectors can support culture and creative industries.

Audience at the 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries in Abu Dhabi. Image: Congress PCI

By Hannah Johnson

In numerous countries, public and private organizations are working on ways to support creative industries. This involves not only supporting creators and their businesses, but also encouraging engagement from consumers and the public.

At the 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries, two panels of international experts discussed how they are tackling these issues—from different angles and perspectives, but with a singular goal of fostering creativity and curiosity. These discussions highlighted not only how fundamental skills like reading and writing are to a country’s well-being, but also how economic growth can be tied to the development of cultural industries and creativity.

Panel: Creative Economy and Public and Private Collaboration

Speakers on the panel ‘Creative Economy and Public and Private Collaboration’ at the 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries, from left: Lynn Madi, Muna Al Suwaidi, Park Youngil, and Rehana Mughal. Image: Congress PCI

Moderated by CNN Business Arabic’s Lynn Madi, the panel Creative Economy and Public and Private Collaboration featured Rehana Mughal, Director of Creative Economy at the British Council and member of the UK Creative Industries Council; Muna Al Suwaidi, Programmes and Projects Advisor at the UAE Ministry of Culture; and Park Youngil, Director of the Korea Creative Content Agency.

Rehana Mughal (read our interview with her here) defined the creative economy as an “economy of ideas protected through intellectual property,” noting its significant contribution to the UK’s economy, where creative industries generate £125 billion and jobs in this sector grow three times faster than the national average. Beyond economic impact, Mughal said the “spillover effect” from creative industries can boost local economies and foster community development.

Muna Al Suwaidi detailed the UAE’s comprehensive approach to supporting creative industries, which includes nurturing talent and businesses, attracting international companies, and establishing copyright protection policies. Al Suwaidi said creative industry development play a role in the UAE’s long-term strategy to diversify its economy beyond petrol.

Park Youngil shared insights into Korea’s success in boosting its creative economy through ongoing support programs that businesses can depend on and plan for. He attributed Korea’s boom in cultural exports to a small domestic market that demands high quality, along with a government that responds to private sector needs.

Mughal advocated for the establishment of a Creative Industries Council, bringing together industry professionals and government representatives to identify opportunities and challenges. She emphasized the need for a workforce that is interculturally fluent and the importance of tax incentives, strategic funding, and grants.

Panelists agreed that balancing economic growth and experimentation is a key challenge for governments. “It’s a risk the government has to allow enough space for some things to go wrong,” Mughal remarked. Al Suwaidi added that collaboration with the private sector and NGOs is crucial for providing funding and access to other markets.

Panel: Fostering a Love for Reading in the Next Gen

The panel ‘Fostering a Love for Reading in the Next Gen’ at the 2024 International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries featured, from left: Georgia Tolley, Luis González, Isobel Abulhoul, and Mohamad Al Baghdadi. Image: Congress PCI

Moderated by Georgia Tolley of Dubai Eye 103.8 FM, the panel New Readership: Fostering a Love for Reading in the Next Gen included Luis González, Director General of Fundación Germán Sánchez Ruipérez in Spain; Isobel Abulhoul, co-founder of Magrudy’s Bookshop and Emirates Literature Foundation; and Mohamad Al Baghdadi, President and CEO of Al Manhal.

Based on her years of work encouraging children and families to read through her bookstores and projects like the Emirates Literature Foundation, Isobel Abulhoul (read our interview with her here) said that reading provides significant advantages over peers, including better academic and professional outcomes, improved mental health, and heightened empathy. “Humans are natural storytellers,” she remarked, underscoring the intrinsic value of reading in personal development.

The work is more necessary than ever, the panelists agreed, as technology changes the way people consume content. Mohamed Al Baghdadi said that in order to stay relevant in an age dominated by technology, children should be encouraged to read through the mediums they prefer—primarily digital platforms.

“If you adopt the technology in a way they are engaged, that’s the key,” he said, noting the constant evolution required from content providers to keep pace with technological advancements.

Luis González added that reading requires effort, which can be a deterrent, especially for children from non-reading households. He added that access to books remains a significant barrier in many regions, and this is an area where both public and private organizations can make a difference.

He called for the evolution of libraries to become community hubs rather than mere book warehouses. It’s important, he said for library e-lending and other initiatives to be accessible to both affluent and impoverished regions.

Abulhoul suggested practical strategies like having teachers read aloud in schools and the importance of school libraries offering a variety of books. Letting children choose what they read, she said, without attaching it to grades or assessments also encourages reading.

González mentioned the success of the Casas Lectoras project in Spain, which teaches parents to tell stories and integrate reading into family life. He said the critical age for reading is around 10 years, when digital engagement becomes pivotal.

The panelists debated the role of digital content, with Isobel cautioning against its addictive qualities and advocating for limited device use among children. Luis González described digital as a “Trojan horse,” pointing out its potential for constant interruptions. Mohamed Al Baghdadi concluded that the choice of technology should depend on the content and its usage.

The blend of perspectives represented on the panel—from business like Magrudy’s and Al Manhal, to public and nonprofit organizations like the Casa Lecturas and the Emirates Literature Foundation—reflected one of the main themes of the 2024 Congress PCI: cooperation and commitment across these sectors is necessary to build robust creative economies and culture.

More About Congress PCI

Now in its third year, the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries is organized by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and takes place the day before the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair opens. Organizers say they intend to continue expanding this conference event into “a knowledge-sharing hub for regional and global publishing and creative content developers in the Arab market.”

In addition to a full day of professional discussions, the program includes workshops and masterclasses for creative professionals and students, as well as an exhibition of technology and creative companies working in the Arab world and internationally.

Follow Publishing Perspectives for more coverage of this year’s Congress PCI.

About the Author

Hannah Johnson


Hannah Johnson is the publisher of international book industry magazine Publishing Perspectives, which provides daily information and news about book markets around the world. In addition to building partnerships with international cultural and trade organizations, she works with the Frankfurt Book Fair to organize and support a number of its overseas initiatives. Hannah has also worked as the managing editor for an online media company, The Hooch Life, focused on craft distillers and cocktail experts. Prior to that, she worked as a project manager for the Frankfurt Book Fair’s New York office, managing various business and marketing activities.

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