Zimbabwe: powering development through culture

On 16 May, UNESCO’s 2018 Global Report “Re|Shaping Cultural Policies” was launched in Harare, Zimbabwe, bringing together over 200 participants, including representatives from various cultural, media and public institutions. Organized in cooperation with the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation, the event highlighted the positive contribution of culture to sustainable development.

Culture is both an enabler and driver of sustainable development. Cultural and creative industries (CCIs) generate annual revenues of US$2.250 billion and global exports of over US$250 billion. Moreover, these sectors often make up around 10% of national GDP and employ more people aged 15−29 than any other sector.

Culture has also the potential to enable key development goals. The 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda mentions culture explicitly with relation to education, economic growth, sustainable cities, and consumption and production patterns. Deploying cultural resources can also help reduce inequalities within and among countries as well as achieve gender equality and empowerment of women and girls.

For the past decade, Zimbabwe has taken important steps to promote its CCIs. Initiatives from civil society have included the National Plan of Action for Arts and Culture (2012) spearheaded by Nhimbe Trust which laid the aspirations and concerns of the creative sector and the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe Trust set up in 2006 to provide financial support to cultural professionals and artists. The government is also currently in the process of creating a chamber of CCIs to further harness the potential of this sector.

Integrating culture into development    

Against this backdrop, the launch of UNESCO’s new global report highlighted the importance of integrating culture into national sustainable development plans. The event was opened by Margaret Chirapa, Secretary General of the Zimbabwe National Commission for UNESCO, Farai Mpfunya, Executive Director of the Culture Fund of Zimbabwe and Dr. Biggie Samwanda, Director of Arts, Culture and Heritage at Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation.

“This report is critical to Zimbabwe, where access to adequate data and information related to creative industry sectors and their contribution to development and growth domestic product remains a major challenge. Through this report, we are here to facilitate the transparent sharing of information as well as monitor global trends and challenges within member states,” said Dr. Biggie Samwanda

“We look forward to use this Global Report as a tool to further Zimbabwe’s aspirations in artistic freedom, artists’ mobility, gender equality and digital creativity,” expressed Farai Mpfunya

The debates focused on the need to enhance inter-ministerial cooperation. Culture, being a transversal issue, requires the involvement of different actors.

“We need to recognize that there are multiple stakeholders in cultural policy. The report shows that for far too long we have focused too much on the cultural ministries and cultural NGOs to achieve the change that we want. But the change in terms of the practical things that need to happen are very much beyond the remits of cultural ministries,” underlined Ojoma Ochai, Director of Arts for British Council West Africa

In conjunction with the launch event, UNESCO also organized a media diversity training workshop on 9 March, led by Mr Charles Vallerand, member of the 2005 Convention Expert Facility. The workshop, gatheringgovernment officials, human rights advocate and media and cultural professionals, addressed topics related to media ownership, diversity of content and media freedom. 

The workshop is part of the project “Enhancing fundamental freedom through the promotion of the diversity of cultural expressions” supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida).