Culture and Development Context
The African Arts Institute seeks to be a leading organisation operating in, and giving content to the culture and development paradigm in Africa. AFAI’s vision and priorities are located within a broader understanding of the regional and global context in which it operates, which impacts on its work, and which it seeks to influence.
International and African Policy context
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with their looming 2015 deadline resonate particularly with African countries, with 37 of the 54 countries on the continent occupying the “Low Human Development” category on the Human Development Index that measures well-being in terms of life expectancy, health, income and literacy. The 2005 UNESCO Convention, the AU Plan of Action on Cultural and Creative Industries and the role of culture, the arts and the creative industries in a post-2015 international development agenda present key theoretical and implementation challenges.
Poverty and inequality challenges
According to the International Monetary Fund, most of the fastest-growing economies are on the African continent. Yet 50% of Africans still live on US$2 per day or less and inequality has deepened in most countries. This has huge implications for the sustainability of cultural and creative industries on the continent because of potentially limited markets for African artists and their creative goods.
Democracy and human rights challenges
The Ibrahim Index on African Governance and the Democracy Index both emphasise that most Africans live in authoritarian states where human rights and freedoms are not highly respected. This would also mean that many citizens are denied freedom of association, of creative expression, of thought and the fundamental right articulated in Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that “everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community and to enjoy the arts…”
With ideas, values, worldviews and beliefs embedded in culture generally and the arts and creative industries in particular, these are both signifiers of and contributors to human, social, economic, political and cultural development. They are directly influenced by – and in turn influence – their respective social, political and economic contexts. The development, governance, human rights and inequality challenges of the continent provide the milieu in which creative practitioners work, and to which such practitioners are required to respond. It is here that AFAI locates itself and its activities.