Working Groups

What is a working group?

ACPN has set working groups to write about several topical issues related to culture in Africa. Each working group has a convenor in order to drive group towards achieving its goal within the time frameworks. One of ACPN aims is to nurture “experts” on these themes who can speak confidently and knowledgeably on regional and international platforms.  ACPN has tried to ensure an equal number of women and men as convenors of Working Groups. Each working group also has a Steering Committee (SC) member to facilitate communication between the SC and the working groups. Initially set on 30th November 2017, the deadline to hand the policy position papers has been extended to 31st January 2018.

Working groups themes 

1.)  Culture and the Sustainable Development Goals

Over a period of two years from 2014, there were more than 28 000 reported cases of Ebola in West Africa, and more than 11 000 deaths during the epidemic.  Health officials attributed the spread of the disease to various factors, including – not insignificantly – to cultural practices regarding burial and caring for the ill.  It was only when these cultural practices were addressed that the epidemic began to be reversed.

Development strategies generally seek to address health challenges to ensure that people live long, productive and fulfilling lives, but culture is seldom taken into account when planning and implementing these strategies.

This working group will explore the relationships between culture and the seventeen SDGs, including culture and poverty, culture and gender equality, culture and climate change,  particularly from within varied African conditions. What is – or should be – our understanding of the relationship between culture and development and how should this understanding practically inform development strategies and cultural policy?

2.)  Culture, Democracy and Human Rights

The 2018 Ibrahim Index of Governance in Africa shows that participation in democratic elections has steadily increased over the last decade, but at the same time, the space for civil society is shrinking with worrying downward trends in the exercise of freedom of association, freedom of expression and civil liberties.

The German Bertelsmann Foundation states in its 2019 Transformation Index that Africa is a highly polarised continent politically, with half of the countries being autocracies and the other half democracies, with 5% of these “consolidating”, 34% “defective” and 11% “highly defective”, so that the practice and experience of democracy varies considerably even among those countries considered to be “democratic”.

While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts fundamental freedoms and rights to be enjoyed by all human beings, religious beliefs, cultural traditions and value systems impact on how these rights e.g. gender equality and freedoms are distributed, asserted or protected.

Is democracy compatible with different cultural traditions and practices on the continent?  Is culture a legitimate argument for the relative implementation of human rights?

This working group will explore the dynamics between culture, human rights and democracy, with democracy – while being a political construct – itself premised on particular cultural values.

3.)  Culture, the Economy and Creative and Cultural Industries (CCIs)

International agencies such as the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), UNESCO and the European Commission have emphasised the creative and cultural industries as drivers of economic growth and consequential social and human development.

The African Union – through its 2008 Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries – as well as many individual African countries have embraced the CCIs as integral to their cultural policies.

In 2016, besides military costs, the estimated costs for Nigeria to respond to humanitarian needs as a result of Boko Haram’s insurgency was $2,6 billion whereas the estimated contribution of Nigeria’s film industry, the second largest in the world, was estimated at $600 million for the year.  On the one hand, creative and cultural industries appear to contribute to economic growth; on the other, conflicts with a cultural dimension tend to consume far greater resources.

This working group will explore culture in its broader meaning within the context of cultural policy, as well as interrogate the relevance of emphasising the creative and cultural industries in varied African conditions.

4.)  Culture, Conflict and Intercultural Dialogue.

The Institute for Cultural Diplomacy uses the following definition of cultural diplomacy: “a course of actions which are based on and utilise the exchange of ideas, values, traditions and other aspects of culture or identity, whether to strengthen relationships, enhance socio-cultural cooperation or promote national interests…”.

Conflicts rooted in inequality related to economic, political and coercive military power, are often infused with a cultural dimension that is rarely considered when formulating strategies to resolve or mitigate such conflicts. Within a polarised world where western media outlets enjoy global hegemony, serving to promote particular worldviews, values and belief systems, migration and refugees are increasingly regard as threats to the dominant way of life, of being.  Strategies to address “radicalisation” are on the increase and are aimed at those who potentially threaten security in the Global North; seldom to analyses and strategies address the cultural biases of dominant societies that create the conditions for “radicalism”.

This working group will explore the relationship between culture, conflict and intercultural dialogue/cultural diplomacy, and seek to provide fresh perspectives on these.

5.)  The 2005 UNESCO Convention and its relevance to contemporary Africa

More than two-thirds of African countries have signed up to the 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions.  Africa has probably been the primary regional recipient of funding from the Convention’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity, such as it is.  And yet, given the security and political concerns about “refugees” and “migrants” Africans generally and African artists in particular are among the least likely to enjoy “preferential access” to Global North markets for their creative goods and services as promoted by the Convention.

For all the promises of the Convention when it was first adopted, the question now is: of what relevance is the Convention to Africa in our polarised world?  Why should African governments continue to be encourage to adopt and implement the Convention?  More importantly, what’s in it for Africa’s creative sector and for its artists?

This working group will interrogate the relevance of the Convention to contemporary African conditions.