Interview: Culture is a resource for development in Africa
"We just want to put development, innovation, social relations and culture as the basis of creativity in the heart of the debate”, says Francisco d'Almeida, Director of the NGO Culture and Development, a faithful partner of UNESCO. Here he shares his views and experiences on the role of culture for development in Africa and on the cultural development strategy of Burkina Faso along with the establishment of a cultural center The Reemdoogo.
What do you think culture has to offer for development? What kind of a place should culture occupy in development policies?
It is necessary that culture transverse all aspects of development. The difficulties encountered by the strategies to reduce poverty that have been adopted so far have pushed us to reconsider the earlier approaches and to take into account the different identities and values of the people, as well as the cultural means to accomplish them.
In order to work for our development, we need to rely on our own cultural roots, finding confidence in ourselves.The power to unite and fight the challenges wells from the culture of a people. Culture is the foundation that the organization and functioning of a society are based on. It determines the path of the economic and social development that people are to take.
Could you explain the cultural development strategy implemented in Burkina Faso?
In Burkina Faso, the Government has decided that crafts, cultural industries and tourism are sectors of priority for reorganization, which will be done in the framework of our "Strategy for Accelerated Growth and Sustainable Development 2011-2015 (SCADD). This major orientation was confirmed and clarified in 2012 by the " Government Program of Action for progression and sustainable development" which also raises decentralization, especially of cultural activities, in an important position in the development of Burkina Faso. Because "in order to place Burkina Faso on the way of development,we have to keep in mind that each community is an entity that possesses specific economic potential as well as socio-cultural and artistic characteristics that should be valued."
As our industrial field has some fundamental limitations, it is challenging for this field to lead the national economy all by itself. That is why we have decided to take action to diversify the sources of employment and wealth creation. This is why, as a piloting organ, the Government and the Municipality of Ouagadougou is now working to diversify the local economy in a framework of sustainable development, building on our cultural resources.
How does the state meet the challenges posed by the youth, urbanization, culture and development in Ouagadougou?
Like many African cities, Ouagadougou is experiencing strong and rapid population growth, characterized by a high proportion of young people in the demographic curve and rapid urbanization. Thus the state has to control the impact that these factors have on the environment and the well-being of the population.
Within the framework of cultural competence, mandated by the state, the Municipality of Ouagadougou has taken into account the social, cultural and economic importance of music and its ability to meet the cultural needs of young people by offering them opportunities for income generation. The municipality is working to create a technically and materially suitable environment to encourage development.
And is there a high quality infrastructure available for the young population to realize this development?
Yes. In an effort to strengthen the national music market, Burkina Faso has received support through the UNESCO 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions for the establishment of a resource center and a nursery for cultural industries, "the garden of music Reemdoogo" in Ouagadougou. The purpose of this nursery is to stimulate the domestic music industry through institutions and capacity building for entrepreneurs in the creative field, and developing and managing SMEs.
Thus, a tool to support the development of music industry has been implemented in the Garden of Music - Reemdoogo, a resource center intended to ameliorate the structure of music industry. It supports the creation of music by the provision of fully equipped rehearsal rooms, furthers distribution with a semi hall - 500 indoor seats and facilitates, through training, information and consulting, the professionalization of music business.
The Reemdoogo is part of an ensemble that also includes a nursery for cultural enterprises, which provides consulting, training and information for young entrepreneurs in the music industry. It works in collaboration with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. By mobilizing a network of trainers and advisors, the nursery has provided training and support to 117 entrepreneurs and cultural operators in two years.
Reemdoogo has made a real contribution to the transformation of musical life. It has revived the dynamism of music industry and revitalized instrumental practices as well as our musical heritage. By organizing training workshops for young instrumentalists, Remdoogo has promoted music education; especially girls have been highly motivated. In helping the young professionals, it has contributed to the fusion of traditional and modern music and reinforced the cultural diversity of musical products. In addition to employment creation for young people living in the neighborhood, the centre has also contributed to the transformation of its immediate environment through the construction of a paved road and by offering restoration projects and recreational activities for the people of Ouagadougou.
Many efforts are made to promote culture for development, especially in financing cultural industries, are these efforts made solely for commercial reasons?
Because of the support of the UNESCO Convention on the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, the French Cooperation, the City of Grenoble, the European Commission, the association Culture and Development and the Program intra -ACP Culture have joined forces to include culture in their joint efforts to achieve sustainable development.
And when we say we want to further advocate culture for sustainable development, we are not trying to defend the interests of an industry or to create a new class of consumers. No. We just want to put development, innovation, social relations and culture as the basis of creativity in the heart of the debate because, as I said in other words, the limitations of current models reside precisely in the hegemonic position of social economy, environment and human rights.
By valuing our cultural expressions, it is actually our society that valorizes itself. This means giving citizens tools to take ownership of their development, to recognize and express their creativity by providing policies that enable the creation of sustainable development.
To know more about the Remdoogo (in French):
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