Burkina Faso: Culture key to sustainable development, says study

The rise of digital cinema in Burkina Faso is putting the industry back on track. Credit: Talatu-carmen

Burkina’s cultural industries make up 2.02 % of its Gross Domestic Product, and 1.78% of the country’s jobs were linked to arts and culture in 2009. But most critically, Burkina’s incredibly dynamic cultural scene is “contributing to sustainable development by helping prevent conflict, fostering social integration and nation building,” commented Mr. Désiré Ouédraogo, Cultural Advisor at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Burkina Faso. 

These findings are at the heart of the biggest investigation into Burkina’s cultural and arts scene. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism, with the support of UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), led the research. The ultimate goal was to find out to what extent Burkina’s cultural industries are relevant to the socio-economic growth of the country, and to make specific recommendations for strengthening it. 

When asked about the impact of the study, Mr. Ouédraogo welcomed the adoption of its findings in October 2012 by the Council of Ministers. Another critical side effect was that, “after carefully examining our study the Council launched a process to procure art pieces to decorate public buildings. This introduces public purchase of contemporary art into our cultural actions,” concluded Mr. Ouédraogo. The data that has emerged from the research will also help advocates like Mr. Ouédraogo push for a greater allocation of resources into Burkina’s cultural sector.

The end of the 90s saw Burkina’s cultural industries stumbling due to “a deep structural crisis”, explained Mr Ouédraogo. But today the country is again buzzing with the rise of digital cinema and the production of soap operas highly popular even across the region. Piracy had almost paralysed its music industry. But musicians are now touring and staging live concerts more then ever before. Theatre forum, as a genre, is also booming thanks to some 100 groups producing over 2000 theatre representations every year across the provinces. 

The survey combined an extensive review of literature with interviews with some 500 artists, producers, distributers, shop and venue owners and even broadcast media. It covered ten of Burkina’s 13 regions and ensured issues such as gender and the fate of minority groups were taken into account. 

For example, after looking more closely into how women and men were professionally engaged in cultural activities, the researchers concluded that men hold over 57% of the jobs in the sector. Women, with almost 43% of the jobs, are mainly involved in the production of handicrafts, ceramics and textile -- the sectors with the lowest incomes. 

The study also brought attention to Burkina’s weak local industries. It found that arts production relies heavily on the import of technological goods and other more seemingly irrelevant goods such as beauty make up products. Meanwhile, the research found that in 2011, cultural products comprised 8.2% of official imports. Although slightly on the rise, the export of cultural goods is still very modest and cannot balance the imports. 

The recommendations tabled by the study are wide ranging. Amongst others, they encourage incentives to boost consumption and distribution and fight wide spread piracy. They also call for more regional and international cooperation to broaden potential markets to export cultural goods. Emphasis is placed on the need for the government to implement status of the artist legislation and establish more vigorous partnerships between civil society and the private sector.

Study on the impact of the cultural sector on the social and economic development of Burkina Faso

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