The Star Late Edition
AFRICAN ARTS AND CULTURE IMPORTANT TO ECONOMIC REVIVAL
THERE is no other continent as rich with diversity and an ever-expanding potential as the African continent regarding arts, culture and heritage.
The AU has declared the theme of 2021 the year of the arts, culture and heritage. Art is the conduit through which we can imagine possibilities, invent and re-invent the African nation as part of Agenda 2063. Art is an expression of culture, and culture embodies norms, attitudes and social behaviours of members of society.
Ani Marimba (1994) stated that “culture is ideological… it possesses the force and power to direct activity, to mould personalities, and to pattern behaviour… culture and ideology are extremely political in nature… they are about the definition of group interest… the determination of group destiny and common goals”.
Given the impact of the pandemic on African economies, the theme of 2021 is one of the most befitting response to the need for not only economic revival but the healing that is necessary given the impact of the pandemic on the financial, physical and mental health of many Africans.
There are two things that arts, culture and heritage can help the continent achieve; the first is economic recovery. The second is the relay of an African centred ideology for a prosperous Africa driven by its people and regional co-operation.
In terms of economic potential, the creative and cultural industry in Africa, coupled with the Arab region, contributed $5.8 billion to the region’s GDP according to the 2015 Enerst and Young report and was responsible for 2.4 million jobs. The creative sector comprises TV, visual arts, newspapers and magazines, advertising, books, architecture, music, gaming, radio, performing arts and movies. The industry offers great potential for facilitating a culture of inclusive development.
However, for Africa to harness the power of the creative industry in achieving the goals of Agenda 2063, there needs to be an intentional strategy for the utility of arts, culture and heritage to imagine/re-imagine and re-invent the kind of Africa that is characterised by stronger intra-trades. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement reflects a commitment to removing tariffs on 90% of goods originating from Africa, liberalising trade in services and addressing other non- tariff barriers.
To harness the potential of over $3trillion for the economy, cultivating a culture of consuming African goods and services by a billion people will also depend on the creative and cultural industry’s influence.
For instance, if movies are invested into by a state, the production out to commit to utilising/featuring African products such as automotive, technologies, apparels, tourist site, food and other services offered by Africans and African countries. State investment into the creative sector ought to factor in the national vision and plans, including foreign policy regarding economic cooperation.
Africa’s heritage also has a more excellent economic value through tourism, research, and knowledge production. Africa boasts of an endowment of a plethora of cultural heritage; for instance, oral traditions that capture histories, traditions, and various forms of knowledge are part of the category of intangible cultural heritage along with performing arts and rituals.