Peer learning and participatory policy process for a dynamic culture sector in Africa
“You are now the local experts”, concluded Avril Joffe, a member of the UNESCO Expert Facility, at the end of the three-day workshop for cultural professionals which took place in Pretoria, South Africa. The Training of Trainers, which introduced participants to the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and the basics of cultural policymaking and monitoring, aimed at fostering regional advocates for contemporary culture and creativity. The training received participants from 16 countries in Southern and Eastern Africa, representing governments, civil society organizations, private sector, UNESCO Expert Facility and UNESCO offices. Each of seven Experts brought unique expertise, allowing for a wide range of discussions and materials relevant to both governments and non-governmental actors.
Promoting peer learning and regional cooperation
Establishing a supportive community of cultural professionals who share regional challenges and encouraging peer-to-peer learning were at the heart of this workshop. “This training has helped me see the bigger picture of the culture sector and how we are going to help each other to improve the processes in our respective countries,” said Juliana Akoryo Naumo, Commissioner Culture and Family Affairs at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in Uganda.
A field visit to Constitution Hill in Johannesburg served as peer learning in action. Participants witnessed how South Africa combines creative hubs with places of historical significance and memories, threading the country’s past, present and future together. “We were able to meet professionals from other countries and to find common grounds instead of flagging faults,” said Ezaius Mkandawire, a filmmaker, cultural activist and publisher from Malawi.
In addition, representatives from Zambia, Botswana and Eritrea, countries yet to ratify the 2005 Convention, had the opportunity to learn the main features and advantages of the Convention and witness regional cooperation in action.
Boosting cultural fields with monitoring and reporting
The importance of continuous and consistent cultural policy monitoring were highlighted throughout the sessions. Effective monitoring can reveal challenges faced by cultural workers on the ground as well as benefits they enjoy from certain policy initiatives. The facts and figures produced during the monitoring allow governments to fine tune their efforts and create evidence-based, effective policies that boost their cultural and creative industries. “I am going back to Mauritius with a renewed energy and dynamism. I am convinced that the 2005 Convention represents an opportunity and a useful tool within national contexts like Mauritius. The more people know about the Convention and the more people take ownership of its fundamental values and principles, the better it will be for flourishing societies,” said Dr Hans Ramduth, a university professor from Mauritius.
The more people know about the Convention and the more people take ownership of its fundamental values and principles, the better it will be for flourishing societies.
Dr Hans Ramduth
Introduction to the quadrennial periodic report (QPR), an obligatory report submitted every four years by the Party to the Convention, was a revelation to many participants. More than a simple form, QPRs compel countries to regularly monitor and assess their cultural policies. Since the report requires inputs from various stakeholders, it prompts dialogues between governments and civil society actors. “This workshop has been an eye-opener because I now know exactly what I am going to report,” Mkandawire commented. “I know what I can expect from the Convention. It will enhance accountability and transparency in my country.”
Trends in Africa’s Cultural and Creative Industries
The workshop recognized the rise of large-scale cultural events across the continent, exemplified by East African Community Arts and Culture Festival, commonly known as Jamafest, now in its 4th edition. Participants heard that stronger legal and institutional support, especially concerning mobility of artists and copyrights, are essential in order to strengthen this emerging trend. The newly established African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and its impact on the implementation of the 2005 Convention were also examined. Along with tangible cultural productions, the topic of arts and culture in the digital sphere, in particular the opportunities and challenges that the internet has presented to the traditional cultural value chains, were discussed.
Yarri Kamara, a UNESCO Expert Facility member, led the panel discussion Gender and Social Justice in the Cultural Sector as part of UNESCO 2005 Convention's interaction talk series Create|2030. “Truly diverse cultural expressions represent a full range of human voices and experiences. Cultural expressions have a unique power to reflect societies, but also to shape them.” Kamara explained that the portrayal of women in music videos can feed certain negative stereotypes, while that of strong female role models in films can challenge those stereotypes. “Cultural expressions can be a mirror and a tool,” she concluded.