A round table bringing together numerous cultural actors from the West African sub-region was held on 23 May in the emblematic monument of the African Renaissance overlooking Dakar. This round table entitled “What innovative and creative mechanisms for the resilience and financing of cultural and creative industries in West Africa? was organised by the African Fund for Culture and the AWA project of the ACP-EU Culture Programme, in partnership with the Biennale of Contemporary African Art – Dak’Art
Mr Abdou Aziz Dieng, technical advisor and one of the pillars of the Ministry of Culture of Senegal (representing the Secretary General of the Dak’Art Biennale who was unable to attend), opened the debate by insisting on the fact that, beyond aesthetic concerns, there is still too little talk about the economy of culture. Yet the creative industries sector is a productive sector that generates both profits and sustainable employment. Indeed, as one of the participants from France rightly pointed out, the return on investment can sometimes reach a ratio of one to seven when the creative sector is well structured and optimally organised.
A new decentralised approach to the management of funds from the ACP-EU Culture Programme allows for action to be taken as close as possible to the actors, by region. For West Africa, a consortium composed of the Kôrè cultural centre in Ségou (Mali) and the Institut français de Paris is implementing the AWA programme, the selection process and the management of funds.
Aimed at supporting actors on the local, sub-regional and international markets, AWA focuses on capacity building as each beneficiary also receives specific management training.
In less than two years of existence, the AWA project has already launched three calls for projects which have resulted in the selection of 77 projects for a total financial commitment of € 3,800,000. The first call concerned the structuring fund, which allowed 15 projects to be financed, each with a grant of €150,000 over three years. The next two calls for projects concern the fund for the promotion of West African cultures, which selected 62 projects in total. Each selected project receives a grant of €25,000 for one year.
The Culture Focal Point of the European Union Delegation in Senegal, Mr Christoph Pelzer, praised the regularity of the AWA mechanism’s calls for proposals and the sizes of the grants awarded, which correspond perfectly to the needs of the sectors concerned.
The vital issue of mobilising and sustaining funds for the growth of cultural and creative industries was at the heart of the debate. And this starts with the mobilisation of dedicated resources at national level.
The example of Burkina Faso – which has a Cultural and Tourism Development Fund (CTDF) – is a big step in the right direction. As its Director General Alphonse Tougouma pointed out with great verve, the FDCT is based on three axes: financing, capacity building and the establishment of an efficient information system on cultural industries that makes it possible to attract resources from other sectors of the economy.
The AWA programme also assists states to develop a more voluntary and better articulated cultural policy in order to generate endogenous and sustainable sources of funding. Several local financing mechanisms are currently being studied, including tax exemptions for creative actors, as a means of consolidating this promising economic sector.
Dean Abdoulaye Konaté, a very talented artist and also administrator of the African Cultural Fund, has launched an appeal for donations of works by established artists to diversify the sources of funding with this type of innovative peer funding mechanism. These experienced creators are also often involved in training the younger generation. Mr Konaté also encouraged countries to adopt strategies to mobilise private sector investment and create the conditions for cultural patronage at national level.
For Ms Ndèye Khoudia Diagne, Director of Arts at the Ministry of Culture and Communication of Senegal, it is also a question of rationalising and optimising investments in order to deal with the relative scarcity of national resources invested in the creative industries. It also advocates for a diversification of funding mechanisms to avoid limiting oneself to subsidies which can sometimes create more dependence than the autonomy sought so that creators can live sustainably from their art.
Bernard VERSCHUEREN in Dakar
© Photo: Bernard Verschueren