Working groups papers

Culture and Climate Change, by Ellady Muyambi & Mike van Graan

The aim of this paper is to interrogate the cultural policy theme of culture and climate change and provide African perspectives on this theme bearing in mind that Africa itself is not homogeneous, but that it differs considerably to other world regions. The paper also aims to act as a springboard for further research, debate and devolution on the theme of culture and climate change by the partners and collaborators of the African Cultural Policy Network (ACPN). The paper further aims at developing knowledgeable, informed and bold African cultural policy thinkers who are able to present well argued positions on the theme of culture and climate change.

The paper notes that Africa’s climate, more than that of any other continent, is generally uniform. That’s the result of the position of the continent in the tropical zone, the impact of cool ocean currents, and the absence of mountain chains serving as climatic barriers.

Interestingly, the paper observes that across Africa, the landscape is changing. The snowy caps of Mount Kilimanjaro are melting and the shorelines of lakes Chad, Tanganyika and Victoria are receding. The once mighty Lake Chad is half the size it was 35 years ago. These and many other changes have led to unreliable farming seasons and low water supplies – a serious problem for a continent almost entirely dependent on rain for its agriculture.

The paper further observes that despite the fact that Africans have contributed the least to climate change, there are widespread fears that Africa will be the worst hit. And most experts agree that Africa is the most vulnerable continent and the least able to adapt to the effects of climate change. Many scientists agree that Africa’s best course of action is to reduce their energy consumption and take other steps to protect the environment.

The paper also reveals that viewed from a different perspective, climate change provides African governments with an added incentive to put in place policies that are long overdue – and to demonstrate leadership on the international stage. This is already happening: countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda have already developed climate-resilient strategies to reduce poverty, raise productivity and cut emissions.

The paper makes a unique revelation of the fact that what people ‘know’ about climate change is as much a reflection of their beliefs, values, worldviews and objectives as a descriptive account of what climate change is and what they must do about it and that, knowledge of climate change exists in a knowledge-belief-practice complex. That is; knowledge is related to what one believes and what one does.

The paper concludes that although cultures are endangered by climate change, perhaps no more so than they have been endangered by a multiplicity of other anthropogenic changes; cultures can and will survive.  The paper observes that for people who see this as paradoxical, it is only because they fall too easily into the trap of believing cultures to be static entities, bound by traditions, that now find themselves to be pitched into a situation that forces change upon them, rather than dynamic interactive systems that are always in motion, transforming, mutating, sometimes dying–yet with surprising varieties of phoenix rising from the ashes.

The paper therefore recommends that, using and supporting a culture dimension is essential in addressing the negative impacts of climate change especially on the African Continent.  The paper further recommends that supporting African Cultural and Heritage Organizations such as the African Cultural Policy Network (ACPN) is a sure way of providing some creative ways to protect culture that eventually plays a big role in figuring out solutions to climate-related threats.


Culture, Democracy and Governance, by George Ngwane (Convenor), Maswati Dludlu, Tauyatswako Masemola, Nolly Wilson Raye and Aadel Essaadani

The purpose of this essay is to find a nexus between democracy and governance as inspired by cultural values in Africa. It is to find explanations as to how traditional core African values; indigenous knowledge and indigenous institutions have impacted on or can shape political systems and democratic institutions in the continent.

It shall be necessary to explore those cultural values especially within a pre-colonial Africa, their relevance to the Afrocentric and Eurocentric definition of democracy and governance and their limitations in contemporary nation-building efforts within the continent.  It must be understood that Africa’s political governance architecture and democratic perceptions do not spring from a mystical or mythical source. It is arguably the result of a long process of cultural elaboration. It comes from this reality that every people of the world have developed throughout their history, particular forms of social, economic and political organisations as well as particular forms of thought, beliefs, attitudes, symbols, images, etc. It is this set of values which confer on them specificity, an identity and a personality. It can be said that all what constitutes our cultural past and present affect our outlook and condition our political development. Rather than being prescriptive, the conclusion aims at leaving the choice of democratic models with the people.  Yet, there is room to strongly affirm that if other countries have developed their governance structure from a cultural imprint, Africa cannot be an exception.