Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Cultural Tourism: Does it Help or Exploit Local Communities?

Cultural Tourism: Does it Help or Exploit Local Communities?

By JoAnna Haugen

On our towns and traditions tour, I couldn’t help but feel a little uneasy about the fact that catering to tourists required additional buildings to be built and modern plumbing to be installed even though the locals themselves did not appear to take advantage of either. Their homesteads felt like living history museums more than homes, with their spotless kitchens, bench seating and tables of goods spread out for purchase. Though we were experiencing traditional cooking, crafts and gardening, I felt like we were doing so in the context of tourism, not culture.

And yet, as we bounced along the road, passing small houses made of adobe where children and chickens ran freely, I began weighing the merits of cultural tourism in the context of sustainability. Satisfying tourists’ interests in order to provide economic stability is not the answer to responsible cultural tourism. Every van that drives down the dirt road and traveler who visits the homesteads leaves behind waste, traces of their own cultures and a carbon footprint. This kind of travel requires delicate planning so that sustainability and authenticity are maintained and local traditions, cultures and ways of life are protected.

But if cultural tourism helps a particular tribe or indigenous group maintain its traditions, isn’t that a form of sustainability? Without cultural tourism in the hills outside of Huatulco, would the local communities have been able to afford to build a dispensary and playground? Would they have running water and electricity?

If the vans of cruise passengers weren’t passed from homestead to homestead by van, would the farmers who grew cacti and coffee be able to afford to grow their crops without a captive audience interested in buying? If the women weaving hats and fans weren’t able to sell their products to out-of-town patrons several times a week, would they continue to make fiber dyes and weave, and would they find any reason to teach their children how to do the same?

Pushing that idea even further, if the people living in yurts in Mongolia, mud huts in the Kenyan desert and adobe homes in Oaxaca weren’t able to make a living off their land, would they give it all up and move to the closest big city, where they would be more likely to find mainstream jobs? A changing indigenous culture starts with one generation and slowly seeps through time until tribal languages are lost and traditional recipes are commercialized and turned into quick-eat microwave meals.

So were the stops of the towns and traditions tour really people’s homes? Yes, but with modifications to please the wayward traveler. Did we learn about authentic traditions? Yes, but with mass market appeal. With that in mind, is there a way to balance authentic cultural practices with outsiders’ interests in exploring them in a manner that is mutually—and equally—beneficial? That’s the question I don’t know how to answer.


* Cultural Tourism is the subset of tourism concerned with culture, especially its arts, heritage and cultural events. It generally focuses on traditional communities who have diverse customs, unique form of art and distinct social practices, which basically distinguishes it from other types/forms of culture.

Culture and creative industries are increasingly being used to promote destinations and enhance their competitiveness and attractiveness. Many locations are now actively developing their tangible and intangible cultural assets as a means of developing comparative advantages in an increasingly competitive tourism marketplace, and to create local distinctiveness in the face of globalisation.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The creative economy: which way for Africa's future By: Titus Kaloki

The creative economy: which way for Africa's future

By: Titus Kaloki

Many have always wondered what is creativity and how can it be measured. How can one tell creativity from the norm and how can one tell what has been creatively done or not. A respected panel of experts who worked on the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, provided their definition of the term.
From their definition, creativity refers to the formulation of new ideas and to the application of these ideas to produce original works of art and cultural products, functional creations, scientific inventions and technological innovations. Also one has to keep in mind that originality involves even reworking old ideas into new ways of implementing them. The term “creative economy” appeared in 2001 in John Howkins' book about the relationship between creativity and economics. However, the term ‘creative economy' is a subjective concept that is still being shaped.

With this in mind we could discuss the various types of creativity. We have artistic creativity which involves imagination and a capacity to generate original ideas and novel ways of interpreting the world, expressed in text, sound and image. Scientific creativity involves curiosity and a willingness to experiment and make new connections in problem solving. Economic creativity is a dynamic process leading towards innovation in technology, business practices, marketing, etc., and is closely linked to gaining a competitive advantage in the economy.

The creative economy is an evolving concept based on creative assets potentially generating economic growth and development. It can foster income generation, job creation and export earnings while promoting social inclusion, cultural diversity and human development, it embraces economic, cultural and social aspects interacting with technology, intellectual property and tourism objectives, it is a set of knowledge-based economic activities with a development dimension and cross-cutting linkages at macro and micro levels to the overall economy, it is a feasible development option calling for innovative multidisciplinary policy responses and inter-ministerial action at the heart of the creative economy are the creative industries.

The creative industries that comprise the creative economy include: advertising, architecture, art and antiques market, crafts, design, fashion, film and video, music, performing arts, publishing, software, television and radio, and video and computer games. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the creative class represented almost one third of the workforce in the United States of America and the creative sector accounted for nearly half of all wage and salary income in the country, about US$1.7 trillion, as much as the manufacturing and service sectors combined.

To achieve this kind of success the main drivers of the creative economy; technology, demand and tourism have to be fostered. The convergence of telecommunications and multimedia has enabled creative content to be easily created and distributed to the widest numbers possible. Most people are open to enjoy other cultural products driving demand and cultural interaction through tourism. In 2004 alone Europe had 417 million tourists while Africa had only 33 million. This disparity is largely because of the creative cities and products found in Europe teeming with museums, art and fashion centres and many more creative goods and services.

What should be done for Africa to achieve the same? Let's borrow a leaf from those economies that have been able to achieve the fathomed success. China saw the establishment of creative districts e.g. the Kowloon creative district measuring over 40 acres and dedicated to inventiveness and production. It has attracted the best of creative minds and companies.

The creative sector due to its cultural connection gets more commitment and skill from its workers as they feel especially attached and achieve the greatest satisfaction. It has enabled the promotion of gender equality as women can be involved in making of crafts and other products empowering them economically. Therefore, the combination of government and civil society efforts greatly foster this sector. To compete globally, our technology should be up to par with the best; not a tall order considering how ‘wealthy' most African countries are. Tolerance for individuality and openness of minds are important for creative innovations and services to achieve economic gains. Without a receptive population selling creativity is difficult. This means education to involve creativity in content and evaluation.

It isn't a gloomy picture for Africa which in 2004 contributed only 1% to the global creative economy, as evidenced by a few initiatives e.g. Lake Victoria and Nyanza Creative Arts Association (LAVINCA.) Created in 1999, the objective of LAVINCA is to promote and create awareness of Kenyan arts and culture. Its program includes projects that aim to bring poor artists together and offer an opportunity to share ideas and experiences. The association was also created to tackle social issues that affect the youth of Kenya such as dropping out of school and poverty, and it intends to put in place mechanisms that will improve their quality of life. The NGO itself specialises in batik work, visual arts, sculpture (carving) and ornaments.

Therefore, an inter-ministerial approach by African governments is needed to foster this economic vista that is eco-friendly, sustainable, socially and culturally uplifting creating unlimited wealth and job creation. It is important for the small players and individuals to look at creating new ideas, goods and services and to slowly abandon the false security offered by traditional destructive economies that plunder natural resources such as mining, lumbering, etc.

With the right political and social will we are destined for a brighter future.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Failing To Call The Tune

Artists and creative people in Africa continue to miss out on the wider opportunities provided by the emergent global economic sector, the “creative economy”.

A report by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) shows that despite registering some of the highest percentage growths in such fields as arts and crafts, music and design, the continent earns the least from its creative people.

“Despite the richness of their cultural diversity and the abundance of creative talent, the great majority of developing countries are not yet fully benefiting from the enormous potential of their creative economies to improve development gains,” the report says.

The comprehensive report, titled Creative Economy 2008, puts into facts and figures, the contributions made to global economic growth by artists, musicians, architects, designers, creators of software among others.
The term “creative economy” has been steadily gaining wide usage within government and artistic circles. On the one hand it’s seen as a useful bridge linking the arts with the wider, mainstream sectors of the economy.
But on the other hand, critics say it provides nothing new and is merely a repackaging of creativity that has always been present.

The report defines “Creative industries” “as the cycles of creation, production and distribution of goods and services that use creativity and intellectual capital as primary inputs.

They comprise a set of knowledge-based activities that produce tangible goods and intangible intellectual or artistic services with creative content, economic value and market objectives.”

UNCTAD points out that the growth in information technology has for the first time pushed creativity to the fore as a possible leading growth area in the future. The organisation adds that the imperative is for governments to strengthen intellectual property protection laws to enable creative people benefit from their output.
The report shows that the sector grew by 8.7 per cent from 2000 to 2005 – the period which the report is based on.

Over all, trade in creative goods contributed US$424.4 billion in 2005, representing 3.4 per cent of total world trade. 2005 is the latest year UNCTAD uses in this report, released at the close of 2008.
However, the bulk of this money was made by the OECD countries, followed by emergent economies in Southeast Asia.

In the same year, the entire African continent made US$ 1.7 billion only, up from a paltry US$0.9 billion in 2000.
In comparison, in the year 2000, Japan alone is estimated to have exported “creative goods” worth US$ 4.8 billion.
However, the figures by themselves do not tell the whole story, for the African continent is the third fasted growing producer of creative products behind Asia:
While in 2005 – the latest date at which UNCTAD collated the figures – Japan exported creative products worth US$ 5.5 billion, and Africa, only US$ 1.7 billion, the Japanese increase was a 15 per cent growth compared to Africa’s, 82 per cent.

A number of factors play here: while the humble African figures are a reflection of poor data collection, meaning there might in actual fact be more production of creative products than is recorded. Crucially, the bulk of products in the “creative economy” depend on possession of hi-tech production, an area Africa lags behind in.

Lack of supportive public policies, poor integration into global economy and lack of investments in the sectors are some of the other factors keeping African “creative workers” from earning as much as their compatriots elsewhere.

“For the moment, African creative products are very under-represented in world markets despite the abundance of creative talent on the continent,” says the report.

It also highlights lack of copy right protection as a virulent enemy of creative industries which “destroys the ability of African artists to have a viable career as an artist or, in fact, the creative industry to become viable.
There is some evidence to suggest that in the music industry at least, pirate operators have a competitive advantage since their costs are lower and they have minimal capital investment requirements.”
It goes on to say that Africa as well as the rest of the developing world “[has] been facing domestic and international obstacles that need to be fully understood and overcome through cross-cutting institutional mechanisms and multidisciplinary policies.

In this scenario, development strategies must be updated to cope with the far-reaching cultural, economic and technological shifts that are reshaping society.” However, the situation in Africa is not even. Countries within the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have a much better infrastructure and benefit the most from the creative sectors, with bigger and better run museums and galleries supporting the crafts and visual arts.

South Africa is the biggest exporter of creative products on the continent, followed by Namibia, Tunisia, Morocco and Kenya. Public policy in the SADC region is also more supportive than elsewhere on the continent. The report makes note of the emergence of musical traditions like Congolese rumba, Zaïroise Moderne, Afropop, gospel; new sounds like from “urbanized youth,” like the South African Kwaito and Tanzanian Bongo Flava.

The main centres for music production the report points out are in East Africa - Kenya and Tanzania; West Africa -  Ivory Coast , Mali , Nigeria and Senegal and; Southern Africa - South Africa and Zimbabwe,
 It points out as noteworthy, the support political leadership has provided in countries like Congo and Tanzania.
 “The realization of value from the creative content of Africa is often in the hands of foreign distributors such that income leaves the countries where the content is created and produced,” the report says, adding that “in Africa, however, because the artists expect to receive little or no royalty from record sales partly owing to piracy and partly to the inadequate collection of copyrights, they negotiate a bigger share of an up-front payment that essentially signs away their rights to the music.”

The report highlights the emerging infrastructure helping to raise the profile of artists:
“The Biennale of Contemporary African Art of Dakar undoubtedly makes a critical contribution to ensuring the promotion of artists and the diffusion of contemporary creative works within and beyond the continent.”
 Also known as Dak’Art, the Senegalese Biennale has become a large expo for African art, drawing in as many as 289 artists from 34 countries including a contingent from the African Diaspora and artists from the rest of the world.

Despite the hurdles it outlines, the report notes that artists on the continent are increasingly coming up with creative solutions, pointing at the runaway success of the Nigerian film industry, "Nollywood", as a good example:
“The emergence and rise of the Nigerian video-based film industry, the so-called “Nollywood”, is a creative response to satisfy the cultural needs of modern African society Nonetheless, developing countries are lagging behind in the film industry, since on average, they produce 1.2 films per million inhabitants compared with 6.3 films in developed countries.”

Africa has put together measures to try and harness the creative sectors. The Nairobi Plan of Action 2005 attempts to create legal and institutional infrastructure to support the cultural industries. The report advises the continent to “integrate into the global economy by nurturing…creative capacities and enhancing the competitiveness of [its their creative goods and services in world markets, provided that appropriate public policies are in place at the national level and market imbalances can be redressed at the international level.

In this respect, support for domestic creative industries should be seen as an integral part of the promotion and protection of cultural diversity.”

Artericle First published on the African Colours Website: 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Understanding Gender Relations, Culture and Development in Africa

Understanding Gender Relations, Culture and Development in Africa

Florence Mukanga

The views expressed in this article are entirely of the author.

Gender imbalances have existed in most African cultures for a long time now. In most African countries women constitute a greater number compared to men but they remain underrepresented in many areas of socio, economic and political activities. This is mainly due to long-standing traditional beliefs concerning gender roles, which are mostly based on the premise that women are less important, or less deserving of power, than men.

These long standing cultural values have often led to domestic violence and abuse of women. According to a report produced by Musasa Project (Zimbabwe) in 2006 domestic violence accounted for 60 percent of all murder cases heard in Zimbabwean courts in 2006.

In a 2005 study on women’s health and domestic violence, the WHO found that 50 per cent of women in Tanzania and 71 per cent of women in Ethiopia’s rural areas reported beatings or other forms of violence by husbands or other intimate partners.

In Mali, Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa (to mention but a few) women do the bulk of the farm work, provide for the livelihood of their families, but are barred from owning the land they work. This again is a practice that is deeply rooted in culture which considers the man the head of household and therefore the rightful authority over land. I am aware of the fact that there are African countries like Mozambique where there are pieces of legislation enacted to facilitate the acquisition of land by women but most of these pieces of legislation are just ceremonial- they are not effectively implemented.

The issue of gender relations does not affect men and women only. In most African countries homosexuality is illegal. Homosexuals are seen as a minority group and regularly experience discrimination and stigmatisation. Due to that stigmatisation many struggle with defining their own gender identity and the subsequent disclosure thereof. I believe this is because in pre-colonial African traditional culture there was no homosexuality. In states like Buganga homosexuality begun with the coming of Arab traders hence most African nations still uphold the view that homosexuality is not culturally acceptable.

Whilst the situation is like this there is a lot of preaching around integrating culture into development programmes but how do we effectively integrate culture and some of its aspects like the ones mentioned above into development programmes that equally benefit all citizens of a country?

Culture is that which makes us who we are. It shapes the way we think, walk, talk and relate to each other. It affects our decision making process.

United Nations organs are some of the organisations that have come to an understanding of the pivotal role that culture plays in development. I am especially interested in an approach to integrate culture in development that is being used by UNFPA.  It is called ‘culture lens’ and its purpose is to advance the goals of programming effectively and efficiently with strong community acceptance and ownership. It is an analytical and programming tool that helps policy makers and development practitioners to analyse, understand and utilise positive cultural values, assets and structures in their planning and programming processes, so as to reduce resistance to the ICPD Programme of Action, strengthen programming effectiveness and create conditions for ownership and sustainability of UNFPA programmes, especially in the areas of women's empowerment and promotion of reproductive health and rights.

This programme is very interesting but what I do not understand in this approach is the aspect of positive cultural values. Who decides on what is positive or negative about an aspect of culture? Which instrument is used to measure the positivity or negativity of cultural values?  What if that which one views as positive is considered negative by the community practicing that culture?

In this age of globalisation are we not running a risk of having powerful cultures dominating and deciding on positive and negative aspects of culture? This observation is affirmed by James D. Wolfensohn, World Bank President, who says that, "In this time of globalisation, with all its advantages, the poor are the most vulnerable to having their traditions, relationships and knowledge and skills ignored and denigrated, and experiencing development with a great sense of trauma, loss and social disconnectedness."

As long as people talk of positive and negative aspects of certain cultures without clearly defining the criteria which they use to classify those aspects then the discriminatory tendency will continue to exist and that means a risk for developmental programmes.