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Africa

Cultural wealth can drive economic growth in African cities

todayMarch 25, 2024 14

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By Bonface Orucho, bird story agency

 

With the right policies, African cities hold immense potential to drive significant economic growth by capitalizing on their rich cultural heritage and harnessing the creativity of their youthful populations, according to a new report.

“Africa’s urban landscapes are not just repositories of heritage and tradition; they are dynamic centres of innovation, awaiting the right policies to support unlocking their full potential,” the report finds.

Titled ‘African Alternatives: The Future of Creative Cities,’ the report is published by the World Cities Culture Forum, a network comprising local governments and cultural sector leaders from 44 global cities.

Through interviews with over 150 policymakers and cultural leaders across cities such as Accra, Addis Ababa, Cape Town, Dakar, Freetown, Harare, Johannesburg, Kampala, Kigali, Lagos, and Nairobi, the study delves into the cultural landscape of these urban centres.

According to the authors, despite lacking comprehensive cultural policies, a remarkable story of progress and resilience is evident in many African cities, allowing them to uphold their unique cultural identities.

Despite challenges such as gaps in cultural policy implementation and inadequate funding models, African cities boast cultural vibrancy, with their youthful populations showcasing innovative blends of cultural elements across various economic sectors.

Through talent, fashion, film, art, etc., youth in cities and urban spaces can leverage their innovation to provide solutions to “rapid urbanisation, economic inequality, and unemployment and create opportunities for women and young people,” according to the report’s authors.

Today, more than 60% of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. UN projections show the current population will double by 2050, with 80% of the pipeline population expected to live in cities and other urban spaces.

Africa’s youthful populations showcase boundless innovation through vibrant art forms ranging from music to fashion and digital art, highlighting their high creativity. The 2023 ‘Creative Vibrancy Index’ ranked Africa’s most creatively vibrant cities, including Johannesburg (64%), Cairo (57%), and Lagos (52%), among others.

These young people’s innovation, drive, and creativity can be blended with the rich cultures in these cities to create dynamic, revenue-generating streams that will drive economic growth, according to the report.

Additionally, city policymakers are now recognising the value of culture and the creative economy.

“Over a third of the African cities we studied have taken the reins, putting their cultural strategies in place,” the report explains.

These include Cape Town, Dakar, Kampala, and Nairobi; all cities with policies to guide cultural exchanges within their urban spaces. The result has been festivals and events that promote idea exchange, especially among young people.

The annual Nairobi festival, for instance, provides a platform for youth and residents in Nairobi to have an immersive experience of the city’s culture. The festival is marked by a display of food, fashion, music and talent in the city. The third edition of the festival will be held in December 2024.

Some cities, such as Kampala, have a long history of hosting similar festivals, with the inaugural Kampala City festival held in 2014. The Cape Town Arts Festival has also been celebrated annually since the beginning of the century.

Fashion weeks and related events also serve as platforms for urban youth to showcase their cultural perspectives and enhance their fashion skills.

Since 2011, when Lagos Fashion Week was founded, the annual event has grown into a robust platform bringing together fashion professionals, buyers, and investors, creating a dynamic marketplace for African fashion.

There are now fashion weeks in 32 African countries, according to UNESCO.

There is, however, an underlying need for increased data that can be used to advocate for cultural policies, a need for better approaches to implementing existing policies, and a need to change funding models if the economic potential of cities in Africa is to be realised.

“Explicit cultural policies and dedicated cultural departments will help to prioritise cultural policy implementation and ensure buy-in from across the political and cultural ecosystems,” the authors explain in the report.

Africa’s slice of the global creative economy stands at US$4.2 billion, as per UNCTAD, within a mammoth global industry valued at US $2.3 trillion, showcasing the sector’s vast untapped growth prospects.

bird story agency

Useful link: https://worldcitiescultureforum.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/03/WCCF-African-Alternatives.pdf

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