Campaign lobbies AU for funding for arts, culture

Zimbabwe was represented by Selmor Mtukudzi and her band who put up an outstanding performance that honoured her late father and legend Dr Oliver Mtukudzi.

An advocacy campaign focused on lobbying African member states to allocate a minimum of 1% of their national budget to arts, culture and heritage sectors by 2030 was kickstarted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during Africa Day commemorations organised by Connect for Culture Africa (CfCA) in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC).

The campaign was launched at a pre-Africa Day press conference which took place at Addis Ababa University on May 24. It was aimed at rallying various stakeholders, including artists, to advocate for increased budget allocation and public funding for the culture sector.

Simultaneously, CfCA hosted a regional network meeting that brought together national coordinators and researchers from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Uganda. The meeting aimed to facilitate discussions on the progress of ongoing baseline studies regarding public investment in the culture sector and stakeholders’ mapping exercise.

In attendance were AU representatives, researchers and international artists among other delegates. It featured various activities including plenary sessions and testimonials. It was also an opportunity to introduce the Addis Jazz Festival that was hosted at the Addis Jazz Village (AJF) the following day. Zimbabwe was represented by Selmor Mtukudzi and her band who put up an outstanding performance that honoured her late father and legend Dr Oliver Mtukudzi.

“We had a wonderful time at the Addis Jazz Festival, the audience was so responsive and engaging. It was a great experience sharing our different cultures through music. Connect for Culture is doing an important job in advocating for governments all over Africa to support the arts,” Selmor said. “The 1% contribution we are asking for is a great start to making sure that we preserve and share the different cultures we have across the continent. I was especially pleased to find out through our researchers that Zimbabwe is already contributing slightly above the 1% that we are asking for.”

Other artists who were part of the line-up are Afrigo Banda (Uganda) award-winning Afropop musician Mathew Thembo (Zambia), Yaho Traditional Band, Jorga Mesfin, Mehari Brothers, Yohana Sahle and Roha Band (Ethiopia).

Through research, data publication, and policy recommendations, CfCA aims to drive substantive progress in resource allocation toward cultural development.

According to a statement released by CfCA earlier this week, partnering with the Addis Jazz Festival for the Africa Day celebration underscored their commitment to promoting the socio-economic potential of the culture sector.

“By showcasing local and regional musicians, this collaboration kick-off CfCA’s advocacy efforts, raising awareness and fostering appreciation for African culture, the statement said.

The CfCA is an initiative being implemented by Selam in partnership with the AU. It is a ground-breaking project aimed at reshaping perceptions and driving positive change in the culture and creative industries throughout Africa. It is dedicated to altering negative narratives surrounding the culture sector, encouraging increased public investment and promoting inclusivity while celebrating the continent's diverse cultural expressions.

Africa Day presented an opportunity for the initiative to reinforce the AU's commitment to cultural development, making the event a tangible expression of the AU’s goals. The event is an ideal platform to amplify the narrative shift from policymakers and increase visibility for positive dialogues in the culture sector, reaching a wider audience.

Selam is a Pan-African organisation headquartered in Sweden with regional offices in Addis Ababa and Nairobi. The organisation was created in 1997 and has since evolved into an international player, partnering with artists, cultural producers, the private sector, the media, institutions, researchers, and national and regional governments across the Continent. It also participates in global and African culture networks, as well as annual networking meetings and Pan-African conferences in Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and Asia. It has implemented several regional initiatives on the African continent and conducted several regional and national studies on the culture sector.

The CfCA National Working Group in Zimbabwe is made up of various experts, including arts and culture sector players.

Coordinator, Marcus Gora told IndependentXtra that the group has already hit the ground running by formulating strategies to engage the government with the support of the arts ministry to advocate for an increase in public funding for the arts and culture sector to help the sector grow and become sustainable.

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