Friday, 14 October 2011

African Creative Cities Network where are we missing the point?

African Creative Cities Network where are we missing the point?

by Florence Mukanga

The views expressed in this article are entirely of the author

UNESCO, the Korean National Commission for UNESCO and Seoul Metropolitan Government will be hosting an International Conference of UNESCO Creative Cities Network from 16 to 18 November, 2011. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network, which was launched by UNESCO in 2004, aims to enhance the creative, social, and economic potential of cities by fostering their creative industries. Structured around the seven themes of literature, cinema, music, design, media arts, gastronomy, and folk art and crafts, the Creative Cities Network encourages cities to utilise their cultural assets in developing specific creative industries.[1]

Just by examining the main aim of this network one can see enormous opportunities that such a network presents to subscribing cities.

The Creative Economy Report published in 2010 says an increasing number of cities are using the concept of “creative cities” to design urban development strategies for re-invigorating growth with focus on culture and creative activities.

What disturbs me is the extent to which Africa has embraced these new ideas. I am not saying that Africa must copy all ideas that originate from other continents…but there are some ideas which are certainly worth emulating!

While it is encouraging to note that in March 2010 there was a Forum in Accra from to discuss the creation of an African Creative Cities Network and the modalities for the advancement of the African Cultural Capital project; with the meeting elaborating the minimal criteria that a city is expected to meet when applying to become  affiliated to the African Creative Cities Network, it is disheartening to see that nothing much has come out of this conversation.

I may not be informed as to whether there have been follow-up meetings to this forum or whether something finally materialised from process. As a young cultural practitioner, it worries me that such brilliant ideas might end up dying a natural death or getting shelved, with no course of action.

In Africa we are tired of talk shows that do not yield to something tangible. I am eagerly waiting to hear about the final establishment of the network and to see our mother body- the African Union playing an active role just to  ensure that the network takes off and flies high.

There are many positive aspects of having such kind of a network it helps our cities to collectively market themselves and their creative industries, it boosts cultural tourism around our cities, creates good names for our cities and attracts more investments in the cultural infrastructure.

Imagine a network linking the magnificent African cities of Maputo, Bulawayo, Johannesburg, Accra, Dakar, Nairobi, Kampala, Lagos, Port Louis, Cairo, Casablanca, Kigali and Yauonde; a network collectively celebrating the diversity of creative expressions of East, West, Central, North and Southern Africans; a network facilitating greater cultural collaboration even between local organisations within these cities; a network that will link the beautiful arts festivals and great African cultural events that take place in these cities! What an awesome network it can be!


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