The first regional meeting of the ACP-EU Culture Programme for West Africa was held on 9 March during the 12th edition of the Abidjan Performing Arts Market (MASA). This was a good opportunity to present the programme’s mandate to operators in the region’s cultural and creative sectors, but also to discover the Ivorian projects that have benefited from its action.
Following a kora tune performed by local musicians, Jobst von Kirchmann, European Union Ambassador to Côte d’Ivoire, recalled the importance of culture for the identity and cohesion of peoples: “Culture is a key to access. It conveys values and fosters understanding of others. Culture is also industry and art. In West Africa, where it is carried by young people, investing in culture means investing in youth.
This was a good way to highlight the historic partnership between the European Union (EU) and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS) in support of cultural and creative industries, spearheaded by the ACP-EU Culture programme. As Gian Giuseppe Simeone, Head of the programme’s technical assistance team, pointed out, the programme has set up a regional funding mechanism based on partnerships with organisations active in supporting culture and close to the field. Thus, in West Africa, the AWA Programme, with a budget of € 6.2 million for the period 2021-2024, has started its action by launching a structuring fund enabling cultural operators in the area to become real entrepreneurs. Following a first call for applications, 15 cultural enterprises in the region are benefiting from this fund to structure and professionalise their activities. A second call, dedicated to the promotion of West African cultures, will enable 27 cultural operators to promote and enhance their creative content. Finally, a third call, again focused on the valorisation of cultural and creative industries, is currently open and will close on 17 March.
Towards boosting the competitiveness of cultural and creative industries
The actions of the ACP-EU Culture Programme aim to boost the competitiveness of the cultural and creative industries, whose potential remains untapped until now, as Harlette Badou N’Guessan Kouame, Ivorian Minister of Culture and the Arts Industry, pointed out in her welcoming remarks: “Culture is an engine for economic growth and job creation for young people. Yet, creative industries contribute only 1% of the gross domestic product of the African continent”.
By integrating the ACP-EU Culture regional meeting into the 12th edition of MASA, the organisations in charge of the programme – the French Institute (Paris, France) and the Kôrè Cultural Centre (Ségou, Mali) – were able to inform and encourage a large number of West African artists and cultural professionals to submit their projects for support in the form of funding and accompanying actions (training and mentoring).
How to apply? Cultural and creative actors are invited to submit their project proposals on the website of the Kôrè Cultural Centre, which will be evaluated by an African jury so that “in a few years’ time, Africa will have cultural and creative behemoths”, stressed Abdramane Kamaté, Head of the ACP-EU Culture Programme for West Africa – AWA.
The meeting ended in the evening with a networking event at the French Institute, punctuated by performances by artists from the region.