Malawi: Cultural policy implementation towards a vibrant culture sector

Context
Over the last years, Malawi has increasingly placed importance on the inclusion of culture in socio-economic development, leading to its introduction in the country's Development and Growth Strategy 2011-2016. Following a series of stakeholder consultations and legislative reviews, a National Cultural Policy was established in 2005, which notably proposed the establishment of a National Arts Council. Finally, a National Conference on the cultural industries in Malawi was organised in 2011 and led to the establishment of a coalition of cultural industry operators.

Aim of the mission
This technical assistance mission consequently complemented this dynamism and supported the Government in its efforts to take the Cultural Policy forward, with the aid of related policy strategies for the sector and for the cultural industries.

© El Husseiny / Chifunyise

With a strong emphasis on capacity building of both governmental workers and cultural operators, notably in the fields of cultural management and entrepreneurship, this initiative strived to empower cultural operators and cultural industries, contributing to the sustainable development and governance of a vibrant culture sector. Ms Basma El Husseiny (Egypt) and Mr Stephen Chifunyise (Zimbabwe) supported the Government of Malawi with their recognised international and regional expertise on cultural policies and cultural capacity-building.

Activities undertaken
During their first visitin August and September 2012, the experts consulted a wide range of cultural stakeholders, ranging from members of the different governmental divisions concerned to representatives of the different arts associations. The experts also met representatives of the different international organisations working to strengthen the culture sector in the country, namely the Norwegian Embassy, the British Council and the Delegation of the European Union to Malawi. These numerous consultations enabled the experts to critically assess the needs and priorities of the sector, as well as its strengths and weaknesses, in order to inform the review of cultural legislation on the one hand, and to design the capacity-building activities on the other.

This preparatory work led the way for the second visit in September and October 2012. Complemented by further consultations with cultural stakeholders and visits to cultural venues, the experts work was divided into two areas. The first was the evaluation and review of the existing cultural legislation, with a view of strengthening its potential for implementation and impact. This notably included the introduction of different concepts and possibilities, notably that of the cultural industries and the socio-economic potential for development that characterise them. The second area consisted of capacity-building activities. These focused on three different groups: staff from the governmental culture departments; leaders from the different national cultural associations; and women cultural entrepreneurs. While the objective of the training for governmental staff was to reinforce their role as managers and fosterers of the culture sector, that for civil society leaders was to create a platform of discussion and collective action that could increase their voice and recognition within the country.

Results
The legislation review lead to a number of recommendations to strengthen the relevance, increase the scope and define the areas of action and priorities of the legislation, while also proposing realistic structural changes to increase the effectiveness and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the different culture sector stakeholders. Due consideration was consistently given to maximising the use of the limited financial resources, as well as to strategies to increase investment in the sector. The capacity-building activities went hand in hand with these recommendations, working to enhance the different stakeholders' skills and knowledge as well as raising their awareness of the many potentials of the culture sector. This notably lead to the adoption of a harmonized position aimed at making the Malawi Coalition for Cultural Industry a major national forum for the strengthening of cultural industries, as well as the adoption of a 6-point action plan to enhance the position of women cultural entrepreneurs within the sector.

Follow-up activities
The Cultural Policy document has been revised to reflect the recommendations made during the technical assistance mission by the two experts. The document is now awaiting confirmation by other divisions of the Department of Culture and will then be submitted to the Office of the President and Cabinet officials, and lastly  to the Cabinet Committee in charge of Culture.
The technical assistance mission also led to the creation of the Standards and classification Board for greater freedom of expression and artistic rights.
In addition, a Workshop for organizers of cultural and arts festivals was held in Blantyre from 29 to 30 April 2013, with the aim of sharing experiences in events management.
Finally, an official website for the Department of Culture is being developed with the aim of promoting creative industries in the country.

 

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