How do we measure creativity? Monitoring and data collection is an essential task for governments that wish to encourage the growth of their creative economy. Only when we understand the current state of the cultural and creative industries, can we fill gaps and remove obstacles that the creative force faces through effective policymaking. The Gambia, a West African nation, became the first country to use UNESCO’s newly updated report mechanism to capture the voices of creative workers.On July 8, cultural professionals gathered in Banjul, the Gambia. The primary purpose was to begin working on quadrennial periodic report (QPR), a documentation of progress and challenges in the area of cultural policymaking, an obligation as a member of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. A national team, composed of 25 cultural workers ranging from ministries, artists to non-governmental actors, shared their perspectives on the Gambian cultural sector. The discussions were impassioned and diverse: Sheriff Saihou Kanuteh, a member of the national team and a representative of Musicians’ Union of The Gambia, highlighted needs for policies that encourage Gambian musicians to travel and perform internationally - “There is so much unexploited talent in the Gambian music industry.” Ojoma Ochai, a member of UNESCO’s Expert Facility, led the session. “I really enjoyed working with the Gambia National Team. I found the team engaged, diverse and knowledgeable.” Hassoum Ceesay, Director of the National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC), agrees. “The Gambia’s first attempt at QPR was thoroughly consultative and participatory. We began by consulting relevant civil society organizations, government bodies and the National Assembly. We always bore gender equity in mind. Thanks to these efforts, we had a 99 percent participation.”
News coverage of the workshop:
This collaborative process went well beyond an administrative exercise. It also started a dialogue between the government and civil society actors, with a focus on evidence‐based cultural policymaking. Among the participants, the enthusiasm for diverse creative content was strong. “Broadcasters association of The Gambia is ready to work with the creative sector to promote creative local contents,” says Ndey Siring Bakurine, representing the Association. Demba Ceesay and Fantoumata Bah from the Gambian Union of Theatre share their vision: “Our aim is for theatre to regain its rightful position through capacity building and sensitization. We want to make sure Gambian theatre arts and its practitioners are recognized nationally and internationally and given their dues.” So far, the Gambia has responded to this growing demand with their music quota policy. “The Gambia is enforcing a policy that requires 70 percent of music played via television, radio and other media services to be domestically produced, for the advancement and promotion of Gambian Music,” says Fatoumata Camara, Copyright Inspector. The Gambia was the first country in the world to test the new material and tools as part of the updated QPR. To Hamat Bah, Honorable Minister of Tourism and Culture, who considers UNESCO’s 2005 Convention “the heart of the creative economy,” it is a significant milestone. “The new form and related tools were a great enabler and brought in civil society ownership in a positive way. I am confident of a good report that will shape the work of NCAC in years to come,” adds Ochai. The information gathered for the Gambia’s QPR, expected to be finalized in November 2019, will be used for UNESCO’s flagship publication Global Report series in 2021 and highlight the Gambia’s contribution to the global cultural diversity.
“If our young talented musicians are nurtured and guided by the right people, the country’s music industry can become prominent in the sub-region and beyond, despite the size of the country,” says Kanuteh. The lively discussions in July laid the foundation for Gambia’s future creatives aiming for the global stage.