Capital - Ethiopia - June 2008

Creative industries
The under-utilized African resources

Part 2

By Abiy Demilew

In the first part of this article, we’ve seen how Creative Industries kept impacting on the global economic scenario and how the developed countries continued to benefit from these booming economies, which, as confirmed by the UN’s report, are mentioned as the most dynamic sectors in world trade, with an average annual growth rate of 8.7 per cent ie USD 424.4 billion, representing 3.4 per cent of total world trade.
We have also seen the picture in Africa, the richest continent of cultural and traditional artistic civilizations, creativity and talents, which unfortunately, remains marginalized from the global market of creative products with less than 1 per cent of world exports.
The United Nation’s report defines African Creative Industries as not as totally fragmented, suffering of domestic policy weaknesses and global systemic biases.
Creative Industries, which are characterized by the cycle of production, marketing and distribution, are not complete in Africa, despite the profusion of talent on the continent as well as the richness of cultural tradition and heritage, with limited commercialization of African cultural and artistic creations on both the domestic and foreign markets, according to different studies and UN’s report.
Even though African nations, through their ministers of culture, on the first Ordinary Session of the African Union Conference of Ministers of Culture, adopted The Nairobi Plan of Action for Cultural Industries in Africa including its ‘Plan of Action for Development of endogenous Cultural Industry in Africa within the Perspective of Setting Up an African Cultural Common Market’, 10-14 December 2005, in Nairobi, Kenya; Africa still continues to be un-beneficiary of the sector.
Why Africa needs to wake-up?
Africa needs to wake-up and think again not only to benefit its under-utilized resources, but also not to continue being marginal of the world economic and development scenario, which for instance only in the European Union employs over 5.6 million people.
The report warns the situation of African Creative Industries to be problematic as it could lead to the gradual impoverishment of the cultural heritage of African countries. And accordingly, the trend might continue if the development of these industries, which support creative talents in the economies, continue to suffer of infrastructural and policy problems. And in the absence of a secured decent income, it is not surprising that talented people are not attracted by a career as artist, musician, filmmaker or craft worker and that the leakage of talent from developing economies continues to be severe.
Agoralumiere International and the Accra Group
In addressing the burning issue of these industries in Africa, Agoralumiere International, the Pan-African Non Governmental Organization and mandated by UNCTAD, has taken the initiative to take the lead in setting-up the platform for the realization and development of African creative industries and economies.
And after long journey, Agoralumiere International, at UNCTAD XII (20-25 April, 2008) in Accra, Ghana; was able to bring together numbers of representatives from the Pan-African creative industry sectors and friends of the Creative Africa initiative, creative professionals, policy makers, civil societies and citizens, in road-mapping the platform for the future of the creative industries of the continent, and to quench the burning thirst of African creative artists and the industries themselves.
Creative Africa, one of the warmest sessions of the week-long Accra summit, held a series of vibrant discussions on various issues including the ownership, partnership issues and implementation of Creative Africa, with the attendance of various professional from the film, radio and TV, festivals and live events, music, traditional dance, theatre, poetry and literature, fashion design as well as the full range of support activities to creative industry value chains from copyright commissions, anti-piracy activism, trade unions, universities, cultural magazines and newsletters, archives, capacity development, audience development, cultural entrepreneurship training, cultural funds for artists to African creative industry researchers.
The discussions outlined the core challenges of the creative sectors of different African countries, while at the same time some experiences were also shared among the participants; which were filed by the burning ambitions of action than words.
Even though various Pan-African institutions operate in different parts and countries of Africa, the importance of bringing these institutions together to roadmap the future of the creative industries and their immeasurable contribution for the overall development of African economy, was boldly highlighted.
Participants representing the already existing professional networks such as the Observatory on Cultural Policies in Africa (OCPA), the Federation of African Cultural journalists, the African Coalitions for Cultural Diversity, the Arterial Network and the International Federation of Coalitions for Cultural Diversity as well as political partners such as the Nigerian Ministry for Culture and Tourism, the International Organisation of Francophonie, the Danish Centre for Culture and Development Cooperation, the German National Commission for UNESCO and the Aspen Institute; have also land marked the importance of a unified effort for the future ahead.
The Accra Group
After a series of wide ranging discussions, on enabling the development of the African Creative Industries through capacity building, creative industry growth strategies and active policies for cultural diversity; the formation of The Accra Group was realized.
The Accra Group, setting the platform, held a dialogue based on a free and active exchange of views in order to share a maximum of information and ideas on how to engage Africa and its stakeholders in the implementation of the AU and UNESCO frameworks providing visibility, exposure, collaboration and global market access for African creators and producers.
The discussions highlighted the importance of civil society planning and action in partnership with national governments, intergovernmental bodies and other actors with clear roles for each party in the implementation of the different frameworks into life and every day practice in Africa. The deliberation centered on African ownership in the context of global frameworks.
The Accra Group, gearing its engine, held an extraordinary session in the National Theatre of Accra, Ghana, 24 April 2008, to emphasize on the creation of an environment which enables the flourishing of the creative industries and cultural diversity in Africa, locating effective policies and measures in that respect, and outlining the best practices and strategies for building cultural capacities and for developing cultural industries in the specific and concrete case of Africa and its sub-regions.
The discussion also highlighted the respective roles of the African Union, African stakeholders represented by Agoralumiere International, UNCTAD and other international bodies, in the process of a global strategy for African Cultural and Creative industries development.
The Accra Group, which also won the attendance of H.E. Bience Gawanas, AU’s Commissioner for Social and Cultural Affairs, Elisabeth Tankeu, AU’s Commissioner for Trade and Industry, and H.E. Yolande Bike, Permanent Delegate of Gabon to UNESCO; has endorsed Bience Gawanas’s recommendation using the platform to structure the African Creative sectors under leading organizations in order to facilitate an efficient collaboration with the African Union and to have a coherent and common strategy for the development of the Cultural and Creative industries in Africa.
The Accra platform should also help to ensure that in each national context, creative sector stakeholders and national governments commit themselves to develop enabling frameworks for artists and industry sectors through adequate policies for the cultural and creative industries.
The platform should also be a spring point for implementation of The Nairobi Plan of Action for Cultural Industries in Africa, endorsed by AU, with its lists of measures for the ‘Development of Indigenous Cultural Industry within the Perspective of Setting Up an African Cultural and Creative Common Market’ and a Common Strategy for global market access to African Cultural and creative products and services.
The Accra Group, finalizing its formation, noted key calendar of short term to organize its activities and input for the Extraordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Cultural Diversity, 23rd June – 27th June, 2008, Paris, France; which include Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal and South Africa in the African group.
The calendar also is highlighted on the Second Ordinary Session of the AU Conference of Ministers of Culture metting in Algiers, October 2008, discussing on the drafting process of the 2009 Work Plan; the Aspin Institute’s International Conference on Creative Industries; the Ordinary Session of the Intergovernmental Committee for Cultural Diversity, December, 2008, Paris, France.