Decentralizing cultural policies in Burkina Faso to promote local development

In June 2014, Burkina Faso's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, with the support from UNESCO's International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD), started an 18-month project to decentralize cultural policies in the country. The objective is to contribute to national development through the implementation of local cultural policies.

Bourahima Ouedraogo, project manager and Director of Studies and Planning of Burkina Faso's Ministry of Culture and Tourism, shared the main points about the project with us. He was joined by Kaborer Adama (Producer of CITO, an association of theatre members in Ouagadougou) and Camille Bazier (artist and Coordinator of a music group of the MidWest), as well as representatives from local governments Mathieu Valea (Cultural Director of the Mid-West) and Jean Gabriel Nadembega (President of the delegation of the 10th district of the city of Ouagadougou).

Could you please describe the project?

Bourahima Ouedraogo: The main objective is to prepare local politicians and artists from each of our thirteen administrative regions for the new model of governance of culture in Burkina Faso, which relies on decentralizing cultural policies, allowing local stakeholders to develop their projects independently from the capital. The first step was awareness-raising in which a study on the cultural scene in each region and the plan for decentralization were presented. Secondly, we are currently creating a guide with descriptions of how the cultural market functions in each region, taking all the regional characteristics and particularities into account. These two steps are being reinforced by training workshops to assist stakeholders in the development of their local cultural policies.

Why is it so important to decentralize cultural policies in terms of local development?

Camille Bazier: From the artists' perspective, we faced many difficulties to develop a project because we did not have a technical and/or administrative support adapted to the local context: almost everything pertained to the capital.

Mathieu Valea: The decentralization is important because it will enable local authorities to implement actions in order to promote the culture of the region.

Jean Gabriel Nadembega: By acting locally, we can address more accurately the cultural challenges and opportunities pertaining each region. This invariably helps to also identify which kind of capacities need to be built and strengthened.

What were the general findings of the study on the cultural sector in the thirteen regions?

BO: The first important finding is that even though all thirteen regions have a strong cultural potential and they all engage in many initiatives to explore this potential, very few are actually structured enough to carry out a lasting project. Another interesting finding is that, contrary to what most stakeholders believed, the government is indeed very much interested in the creative sector. In that sense, the lack of good cultural projects does not stem from a possible lack of interest from the government: instead, it stems from a concrete lack of expertise in how to manage these projects. Consequently, based on these two main findings, there is an urgent need and a strong wish to develop capacities and to organize the creative sector.

How are the training workshops organized in order to develop capacities and contribute to the local development?

JGN: The training workshops are organized with one goal in mind: preparing local authorities and cultural stakeholders to devise the best strategies for efficient implementation that can foster local development. To achieve this goal, topics addressed are for example: how to elaborate cultural policies, possible partnerships and technical improvements that can be made in the organization of cultural and creative industries, how to transform each cultural particularity into an outstandingly attractive “product”, the economic earnings of a prosperous culture scene, among others.

MV: Artists are also encouraged to expose their needs and propose necessary cultural recommendations to the governments.

How have you benefited from this project so far?

Kaborer Adama: This project is really inclusive and comprehensive. It addresses a very pressing need, bringing cultural stakeholders from various areas together, from government representatives to local artists. Because of this project, cultural stakeholders are now much more aware of the fact that they can count on their local government representatives to get things going. They also have a better understanding of the challenges they have to overcome and opportunities they can seize in order to use culture as a way to promote local development. As a result, they feel much more motivated to implement cultural projects and look for local partnerships.

JGN: From the local government's point of view, it has offered us the opportunity to interact and exchange ideas with local artists and members of the federal government. Understanding both parties allows us to be more assertive in our strategies and actions. 

BO: Let us not forget the technical skills we have taught so far to local artists. Let's take the example of the city of Ouahigouya: we have strengthened the skills of performing artists on how to improve the lighting and sound structure of a concert hall, in order to offer a spectacle of much higher quality.

How do you expect the cultural scene to change after the project?

KA: Today we have the National Cultural Policy, but we want to make sure we have similar guidelines at the local level as well. To accomplish it, I hope the training workshops will empower local stakeholders, leading to the elaboration of efficient cultural policies and an emblematic local program. I also hope that this project will lead to a bigger collaboration between the private and the public sector.

CB: I agree. My expectation is also to have more partnerships between the public and the private sectors. I look forward to having stakeholders from the private sector working together with local authorities, using culture as a way to contribute to the development of the region and of the country. 

June 19, 2017
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