November 30, 2015


We need a holistic long-term approach”

ACPCultures+ interviewed Peter Rorvik after the Arterial Network conference. Peter talks about the major outcomes of the conference, the challenges of the African creative sector and the ways of cultural industry can expand and improve.


What are the major outcomes of this edition?

ACEC has been an important forum to engage with the critical challenges and innovative solutions in the creative sector across this continent. Good feedback has been received about the high levels of information and inspiration derived from speaker presentations and discussions at this year’s conference, and information exchange is always an important starting point. Numerous challenges exist; funding shortcomings, lack of infrastructure, challenges around mobility, management skills, access to resources, an absence of statistical data or tools and instruments by which to measure the creative economy, large gaps between formal and informal sectors, and constraints on freedom of expression in many countries. However, the fact that artists and arts organisations are succeeding indicates innovation, perseverance and resilience often in the face of these daunting difficulties. The conference provided enlightening insights into international and regional cooperation, a deeper understanding of agendas which drive policies and funding in many cases, and pointers to improve coherence at the level of policy and practice. Presentations included recent research studies, examples of artist exchange, artistic creation and collaboration, special focuses on music and the central African region, the setting-up processes of a new African-driven fund, new ways of looking at arts practice and cultural entrepreneurship, and cutting-edge examples from practitioners at the forefront of online and mobile technology. Although the state of the arts and culture sector varies markedly in different countries and sub-sectors, there is definitely a sense in some quarters that artists are doing it for themselves, taking charge of their own self-empowered futures.

Arterial Network was one of the first organisations to place the issues of the creative economy in Africa in public conferences, and this year’s edition completes a journey through all five regions of Africa, from Nairobi in 2011, Dakar in 2012, Cape Town in 2013, Rabat in 2014 to Yaounde in 2015. Engagement needs to be an ongoing process, and consideration needs to be given as to how Arterial, its affiliates and associates can be effective in keeping these matters on current agendas to advance the creative sector in Africa, through events by Arterial and by other agencies, through reports, through relevant structures at all levels, through strategic and coordinated advocacy.

In your opinion, how to enhance African ownership of Africa’s creative economy?

The best protection against the flood of foreign cultural goods and services is to create conditions conducive for the practice of the arts in Africa, for the production, exhibition, promotion and distribution of local products. This necessitates strengthening of leadership and capacity within applicable government departments as well as within arts organisations and other stakeholders. The creative economy has been cited as one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world, and if Africa is to compete effectively on global or local levels we need a holistic long-term approach that includes improved access to infrastructure, resources and opportunities, enhanced presence of arts and culture in education curricula, and training within formal and informal sectors, so as to adequately prepare career trajectories in the arts. Africa has incredibly rich talents, we simply need to provide facilitating mechanisms to bring that talent to fruition and onto viable public platforms. Policies to promote entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, should include enabling environments for increased growth and productivity of micro-, small- and medium-scale enterprises in the arts and culture sector and improved access to local and international markets and financial services. Incentives for funding of the arts by local sponsors should be encouraged, to reduce dependency on foreign funding sources. Importantly, the process of “Africans owning the creative economy” includes audience development programmes to conscientise the public to the value of the arts for society, so that we honour and appreciate our artists who contribute so much to our well-being, social cohesion and social change.  

As privileged observer of the African policies, do you have the impression that culture is better integrated in the development strategies of African countries?

It is encouraging that countries are increasingly recognizing the economic value of cultural and creative industries and this has precipitated closer attention on policy development. Over 30 countries in Africa have some form of official Cultural Policy. However the major challenge is that in many instances where such policies exist they are not being fully implemented, and that they are not sufficiently harmonised and integrated within overall development strategies within respective countries. Culture is not a major priority in most countries, regrettably. In many countries there are arts and culture enterprises and initiatives that thrive on their own outside the mainstream, regardless of whatever policies or processes may exist; the Nollywood phenomenon for example, emerged organically from within the informal sector, before it finally drew regulatory and support responses from government. Also, too few countries include arts and culture role-players and civil society organisations in the planning and decision-making processes. There is valuable expertise and experience that governments could draw on – such partnerships would enhance the success of policies, strategies and programmes. Closer cooperation between countries within regions, including co-production agreements, will also help accelerate progress and open up new markets and exchange.

Arterial Network has a very important mission, which is to facilitate the structural growth of the arts in the African continent. What have been your major successes? What are the main challenges of the coming years?

At the time of the birth of Arterial Network at a conference in Goree Island in 2007 there was little communication between arts and culture practitioners across the vast geographic and language divides of Africa. Since then Arterial has established a wide footprint across the continent, connecting key role-players, identifying and engaging pertinent issues. Currently with official affiliate organisations in 24 countries and wide representation across numerous other African countries Arterial is involved in a spectrum of activities geared towards growing and strengthening the cultural and creative sectors in Africa. Apart from the African Creative Economy Conference, Arterial Network is known for its advocacy and capacity building initiatives, the production of publications such as on Cultural Policy and best practice toolkits on Project Management, Fundraising, Arts Marketing, Advocacy, Festivals, and also its wide-ranging Artwatch Africa programmes to promote and defend artist rights and freedom of creative expression in Africa.

Key challenges are the ongoing identification and meeting of needs in different countries according to local contexts. Arterial will continue to play a catalysing, facilitating and implementing role in partnering, supporting and developing strong organisations and networks in the sector, guided by the following basic functions of the organisation:

·Capacity building through professional development, encompassing individual and organisational development, cultural leadership training and learning exchange programmes.

·Advocacy with specific reference to the development of institutional frameworks and supporting mechanisms to promote and defend the rights and interests of creative workers.

· Knowledge management through collation, analysis and dissemination of research and theory on themes such as cultural policy and governance, culture and development, creative economy, etc, that will inform strategies of the organisation and the sector.

· Market access focussing on the development of the creative economy, including mobilising resources to support the distribution of African creative goods and services

· Information dissemination and communications to raise the profile of the sector, to spread opportunities and improve networking.




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