Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa we Want

Aspiration 5 of Agenda 2063 envisions ‘An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics’. This calls for an African cultural renaissance which is pre-eminent and that inculcates the spirit of Pan Africanism; tapping Africa’s rich heritage and culture to ensure that the creative arts are major contributors to Africa’s growth and transformation; and restoring and preserving Africa’s cultural heritage, including its languages.

Globally, the Cultural and Creative Industries (CCIs) play a key role in contributing to GDP. In recognition of the importance of CCIs in achieving the Agenda 2063 objectives of regional integration, inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development, the African Union declared the Year 2021 as “The AU Year of the Arts, Culture And Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.

Culture incorporates social behaviour and norms of a society as well as the language, knowledge, beliefs, traditions, arts, customs, capacities and habits of a certain community and the 2021 Theme is a declaration at a continental level for member states to invest more resources in promoting national and regional cohesion by investing in African culture and heritage as a vehicle for promoting and achieving the national economic and social development goals outlined in Africa’s Agenda 2063.

The Year of Arts, Culture and Heritage is happening at a time when the continent is still grappling with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic which has imposed heavy human, financial and economic costs to Africa. However, during the pandemic the Creative and Cultural Industries in Africa have played a key role in contributing efforts towards prevention and combating the spread of Covid-19 and furthermore the increased use of technology has created new spaces for CCIs sector to thrive by using digital platforms to promote their goods and services. The pandemic has provided an opportunity to re-examine the continent’s socio-economic priorities, including the role of cultural workers, towards contributing to building stronger and more resilient health and social sectors, promoting equality, inclusion, social cohesion and African Renaissance, as inspired by the Ubuntu Philosophy ‘I AM because you are; You are because I Am’.

Activities and programmes to be implemented under the 2021 Theme will prioritise the following:

  1. Arts and Culture;
  2. Health, Wellness and Post COVID-19 Response;
  3. African Languages;
  4. History and Oral Traditions; and
  5. Heritage.

This article was first published on the AU website.

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