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ArtReviving heritage, transforming Africa’s creative industries

Reviving heritage, transforming Africa’s creative industries

Africa allocates less than 0.03pct budget for creative industry

Reviving heritage, transforming Africa’s creative industries | The Reporter | #1 Latest Ethiopian News TodayOn May 24, 2024, the historic Ras Makonnen Hall at Addis Ababa University was abuzz with activity as it hosted an event aimed at promoting Ethiopia’s culture and arts sector. The occasion marked a significant push as part of the Connect for Culture Africa (CfCA) initiative, a new regional project designed to enhance cultural awareness and investment. Organized by Selam Ethiopia in partnership with the African Union’s Division of Culture and Sports, the event brought together key stakeholders from across the continent.

The primary goal of the event was to champion a five-year initiative dedicated to culture and arts advocacy at both regional and national levels. This multi-stakeholder network seeks to unite culture advocates to underscore the benefits of investing in culture for fostering democratic, inclusive, peaceful, and sustainable social and economic development.

A critical objective is lobbying African states to allocate at least one percent of their national budgets to the arts, culture, and heritage sectors by 2030.

During the event, the CfCA’s mission to promote the revised African Union (AU) Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) took centre stage. This AU initiative aims to fortify African CCIs to enhance their contribution to sustainable development and expand their social and economic impact. The CfCA will collaborate with government agencies, research institutions, universities, media, artists, and civil society organizations to bolster political support for the sector.

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A recurring theme was the urgent need to lobby stakeholders for investments in policy, infrastructure, training, and resources to nurture the growth and global reach of the CCIs. Both public and private funding were identified as essential to the sector’s development. The event also underscored the link between culture and democratic development, emphasizing how cultural expressions can foster freedom of speech and societal concern among the younger generation.

However, the sector’s potential has been consistently side-lined in government budgets, leaving it neglected and overshadowed by other sectors that receive the lion’s share of attention.

Selam Ethiopia, a significant player in Ethiopia’s cultural transformation and a music recording hub, has been instrumental since its inception nearly 20 years ago.

Teshome Wondimu, the founder and executive director of Selam Ethiopia, expressed concerns about the sector’s underappreciation as a vital component of national economies. He highlighted the myriad challenges the sector faces, noting that it has been largely overlooked by many African countries.

“It has come to our attention that the sector receives little recognition from African countries. To address this, we have launched a pilot project involving four countries—Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe—to discuss the issues. The discussions revealed a lack of proper data on how the industry is managed, the budget allocation, and the usage of allocated funds,” Teshome told The Reporter.

He emphasized the need for comprehensive data to support advocacy efforts. “We have initiated baseline research in these four countries to gather more information and plan to advocate for better budget allocation.”

Ambassadors from the four pilot countries were invited to the event to underscore the sector’s significance. Teshome stressed that lobbying for investment in policy, infrastructure, training, and resources is crucial to support the local growth and international reach of the CCIs.

Given Ethiopia’s rich cultural heritage and artistic talent, it is vital for the government to integrate the sector into the broader economy and introduce it to the global stage, with investment being a key factor, according to him.

“Both public and private funding are crucial for the growth of the CCIs. To foster a sustainable creative economy, state leaders must not only invest but also engage in dialogues with the private sector to secure further investment and funding,” Teshome said.

He says the government should develop policies to govern the sector, open up cultural and creative industries, organize professional associations, and support the private sector. Teshome believes these steps will help transform the sector into a thriving industry.

The event marked a significant step toward recognizing and investing in Africa’s cultural and creative industries, setting the stage for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

SisayMengeste, program director at Selam Ethiopia, described “Selam” as a vibrant and empowering initiative that revitalizes Ethiopia’s rich traditions by uniting cultures and fostering creativity across borders.Despite these efforts, Sisay expressed concern about the lack of sufficient funding from international organizations for Ethiopia’s culture and arts sector.

“Even though Ethiopia has vibrant culture and artistic creativity, it is not exaggerated to say that the sector is struggling to get funding from any external sources,” he remarked.

Sisay highlighted that organizations like Selam, which operate on minimal budgets, raise funds through various initiatives to support Ethiopia’s art and cultural industry. He noted that Selam receives funding from a Sweden-based organization, thanks to a strong affiliation with the Swedish government.

He attributed the funding shortfall to political “negligence” by local, regional, and global authorities. “Even with the great potential that the sector has, the Art and Culture economic contribution is highly neglected locally, regionally, as well as globally,” he explained.

Sisay pointed out that the Ethiopian government, like many others globally, lacks the awareness and political will to support the arts sector, unlike other sectors such as education and health, which benefit from well-designed policies.

“The May 24 event was a public funding event that aimed at creating awareness,” he said. “During a fiscal year’s budget allocation, the amount injected into the sector is almost insignificant, at just 0.03 percent. Moreover, since the sector is a part of the income-generating industry for the country, we initiated a proposal for any African government, including Ethiopia’s, to allocate one percent of their annual budget to the Art and Culture sector.”

While Sisay acknowledged that it is too early to predict the outcome of this request to the government, he emphasized the importance of continuing to raise awareness and advocate for the necessary support.

Although this is the first time regional governments in Africa have been asked to raise their budget allocation to one percent by 2030, the collaborative initiative of CfCA has previously conducted various studies on improving the sector. These studies have underscored the sector’s significance for cultural development, democracy, economic growth, freedom of speech, and job creation.

YitsmaTsege, a cultural expert and researcher, contributed to and studied the development of the CfCA’s budget request initiative. He says that the initiative aims to increase the budget allocation of AU member countries following comprehensive research on current allocations and their effectiveness.

Yitsma noted that they have been examining the Ethiopian government’s budget allocation for art and culture and its challenges over the past three years. The study revealed that the allocated budget is below 0.03 percent, which is insufficient to support the sector and transform it into a revenue-generating industry.

“The improvement will enhance the sector’s vibrant benefits and its contribution to the country’s economic and cultural growth while showcasing the diverse areas of the sector found in Africa to the world,” he told The Reporter.

Consequently, the respondents unanimously agreed that the CfCA initiative will significantly bolster the role of CCIs in promoting sustainable development. By enhancing the visibility and investment in these industries, the initiative aims to create more job opportunities, preserve cultural heritage, and stimulate economic growth.

According to UN report estimates, the creative industries account for 3.1 percent of global GDP, generate annual revenues of over USD two trillion, and account for nearly 50 million jobs worldwide. The report also stated that about half of these workers are women, and these industries employ more people ages 15-29 than any other sector.

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