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Chris Addy-Nayo, Project Manager, Center for African Studies Discuss Developing the Cultural Sector in the ECOWAS Countries

The Centre for Culture and African Studies (CeCast) organised a seminar on October 2015 to endorse the study “Facilitating the Development and Growth of the Culture & Art Sector in the EU-ECOWAS Economic partnership”, developed thanks to the support of ACPCultures+.

The Programme interviewed Chris Nayo, the project manager of the study, who tells us the main findings and future steps.
The High-Level Conference recently endorsed the study on EU-ECOWAS trade in cultural goods and services. What will be the next steps?
As you are already aware the study found a number of challenges and opportunities for growing the cultural and arts services within the context of the proposed future services negotiations under the EU-ECOWAS Partnership Agreement. As stated by a number of the regional trade ministries and also the ECOWAS Commission who participated in the conference, the challenge faced with previous trade negotiations is the fact that most of the beneficiaries and actors within the ECOWAS Member States were not sensitized to the technical issues involved in the negotiations. The difference this time is that the consultation process by the experts and dialogue with the culture & arts stakeholders during the study and further dialogue with the stakeholders during the conference has raised awareness amongst the stakeholders and also trade ministries on the potentials, opportunities and challenges facing the sector. Some of the challenges such as policy reforms and increased government funding, subsidised loans for the sector has already being identified to be mainstreamed in government cultural policy and also that of small-scale enterprises under which most artists and cultural entrepreneurs fall. Furthermore, culture stakeholders would also be provided training to engage trade ministries, the ECOWAS Commission and Governments on ways to mainstream issues such as enforcement of intellectual property rights, visa issues related to West African artists travelling to Europe and how to improve quality standards of the arts all within the context of the services negotiations of the EU-ECOWAS Partnership Agreement.

The report highlighted several weaknesses and challenges, can you summarise the main issues?
The sector suffers from a number of challenges which hampers its development and growth. Amongst these include absence of requisite policies to support the growth of the sector, the weak capacity of culture & arts intermediaries to organize themselves to advocate for policies and regulations to support the development and growth of the sector. Furthermore, the intellectual property regime of most of the countries in the region is also weak, lacks enforcement with most of the artistic work vulnerable to copyright infringement. In addition it was also identified that the quality of artistic works in most cases does not meet standards in arts markets in Europe which leads to the inability of West African artists to take advantage of the huge art markets in the EU. Furthermore artists were also found to have difficulty accessing funding from established Institutions due to the perceived risky nature of the sector.
Can you tell us which have been the main recommendations proposed during the conference?
The key recommendations from the conference include the need for Governments in West Africa to prioritize the culture and creative arts sector in national budgets. In addition countries in the region need to support the promotion of quality standards in the arts & culture sector to gain access to arts markets in the EU and other countries. Furthermore, governments should also introduce legislation to protect the copyright of artists and to also ensure that there is an effective mechanism for enforcement of intellectual laws. A regional Coalition of Services Industry (CSI) similar to the one in the CARICOM region should also be established on behalf of artists to lobby governments to protect the interests of artists. Access to finance is also a core barrier to growth for many businesses within the culture and creative sector. This requires governments, private sector, culture artists and financial institutions collaborating with each other to find innovative financial solutions for the arts & culture industry. Festivals are also a strategic asset to promote the arts & culture within the West African sub-region. Countries in the sub-region could learn from the Gambia example and share best practises to promote festivals as a cultural heritage with economic benefits for local communities. Last but not the least artists and their representatives should be provided with the necessary training to be able to lobby government on trade policy issues such as the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), WTO Services Negotiations and the ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS) impacting on the sector.
As privileged observer of the ECOWAS zone, do you have the impression that culture is well considered as a strategic sector for the development strategies in the various countries?
Traditionally the governments of West Africa have not really given the culture & arts the attention it deserves as a contributor to economic development. This has to be placed in the context of the economic structure of the region which mainly depends on agriculture and the extractive industries. However the agriculture and the extractive industries in countries across the region have reached their peak. Climate change, decreasing fertility of land resources leading to conflicts in some cases, and the falling prices of commodities from extractive industries is forcing governments to look for alternatives to increase revenues for its growing populations. And one of these alternatives is to develop and grow new sectors such as the services industries including tourism for which culture & arts is a major input. This project therefore provides the opportunity to West African governments to see the role that the culture & arts can play in the services sector towards sustainable development, employment creation and poverty reduction.
Source: http://acpculturesplus.eu/?q=en/content/chris-addy-nayo-project-manager-centre-african-studies


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