5 Opportunities for European international cultural relations towards ACP countries, beyond the ACP-EU Culture Programme

By Alexandra Gil Táboas and Francesca Pozzebon

The second article of this series (see part 1 on EU-ACP cultural cooperation) analyses the 5 main topics discussed at the online webinar “Towards a sustainable cultural and creative industry in ACP countries” from which EU actors can identify opportunities for external cultural action. culture Solutions supported the webinars’ conceptualisation and execution, providing methodological and content-related support to speakers involved, mainly from ACP countries.


Culture is a cornerstone element of ACP countries contributing to peace building and development processes in a regional context where, according to UNESCO data, creative economies experience one of the quickest growth contributing with a 3% to the world’s GDP. The webinar “Towards a sustainable cultural and creative industry in ACP countries” set the stage to discuss ACP Culture and Creative Industries (CCIs) evolution and new trends, as well as how national governments and international partners may best support them. 5 key elements where EU external cultural action can provide support, expertise and funds were regularly mentioned in the forum discussions. 


L’Agenda 2063 pour l’Afrique identifie la culture comme vecteur essentiel qui permet d’améliorer les conditions de vie de la population du continent dans une région “dotée d’une forte identité culturelle”, ainsi que pour l’ensemble des pays ACP. (Mohamed Hamid, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Crafts, Republic of Niger)


1. Digital acceleration has modified the way cultural actors exchange and create, as well as how their various publics discover and consume artistic products. Although the scope for increasing ACP creators visibility has grown exponentially in the online world, not all ACP citizens have access to online cultural goods. COVID-19 proved the extent to which digital infrastructures were crucial for participatory creative practices and exchanges, weakening cultural operators who weren’t able to adapt and survive to the effects of the crisis. The digital divide was not only reinforced between richer and poorer communities, but also between countries whose cultural contents and providers can more easily access the predominant platforms. These effects hinder the capacity of users from less developed countries to be exposed to local contents they would feel more identified with, also threatening the diversity of cultural expressions in the online scenario.


The digital divide has created an uneven playing field – unequal access to the Internet. The glaring imbalance between developed and developing countries means that not everyone can access the benefits of digital technology. (Braden Chin, Director, CHM Group, Papua New Guinea)


2. Differences in access to culture are linked to personal, academic and career development opportunities for all. Culture can be described as a two-fold tool towards tolerance, inclusion, and respect for human dignity: on the one hand, because inclusive cultural governance integrating anthropological approaches boosts access to culture for all; on the other hand, because social inclusion policies increase local cultural participation and reshape a more gender, varied and socially balanced CCIs. Gender equality in ACP CCIs remains, however, one of the key contemporary challenges, compromised by the terrible effects of COVID-19 on women’s access to education, employment opportunities and labour conditions.


While the collection of valuable data at local, regional and national levels regarding gender representation in CCIs or in certain sectors of CCIs has increased exponentially, this information is not always well defined. We need to take the lead in collecting optimised, open, comparative and comprehensive data to promote gender diversity and leadership in CCIs. (Bridget Conor, Researcher and Teacher at King’s College London)


3. Innovative strategies from the private sector and public administrations are needed to attract, train and support young talents and entrepreneurs in the creative ecosystem. The years to come are key to boost decent employment in ACP CCIs, including fair remuneration, access to financing and access to international cultural markets. New trends in cultural value chains in a more interconnected and digitalised world have raised the necessity of reinforcing investment in human capital, developing further their skills and competencies through formal and non-formal education. In this regard, changing the perception of CCIs in educational programmes and mapping existing training are key to fueling the discussion on the importance of the creative economy for sustainable societies and creating a comprehensive action plan.


Youth represent between 25% and 60% of the workforce in the Caribbean: they are all producers and consumers of culture before entering the market. (Deborah Hickling Gordon, Lecturer at University of West Indies, Expert Member, UNESCO Transcultura Advisory Committee)


4. On average, CCIs in the ACP countries contribute from 3 to 11% of their national GDP. However, the sector professionals remain largely in the informal economy, leaning on regulatory and financial environments that are extremely fragile. This vulnerability has been exacerbated by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, putting at risk cultural SMEs sustainable growth and creative jobs, whose lack of legal recognition made them invisible towards the economic measures compensating for the effects of lockdowns. In this regard, the importance of sustainability of cultural programmes was much emphasised during the webinar discussions: on the one hand, capacity building and strengthening of cultural ecosystems should not neglect the intrinsic informality of these sectors in ACP countries; on the other hand, ensuring appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks for the sector would allow to diversify incomes, open markets, and avoid increasing precariousness and inequalities.


The digitisation of culture and cultural heritage provide an unprecedented opportunity for the further development of educational programmes. (Ayeta Wangusa, Executive Director, Culture and Development East Africa, Tanzania)


5. The strengthening of the cultural and creative eco-systems can help local talents to thrive in their home countries, fostering a building process of citizenship that engages in social and environmental questions through culture. These being challenges to be faced globally, horizontal equal-to-equal cultural relations are needed, including fair artists’ mobility schemes strengthening skills transfers, improving access to financing and thus ensuring further opportunities for international co-creation and co-production.


Culture is Jamaica’s greatest asset and much of the country’s cultural production is exported. Therefore, appropriate mechanisms need to be developed to ensure that creative communities are not marginalised. (Andrea Dempster Chung, Co-founder and Director of Kingston Creative, Jamaica)


To conclude, international cultural cooperation in all its potential should act beyond the artistic domain, mainstreaming culture and its benefits in other sectors. Culture should be seen as a social and political innovative tool contributing to employment creation, conflict resolution, promotion of intercultural understanding, gender equality, the fight against climate change and even a global response to the pandemics that may follow


The sustainability of cultural relations is therefore linked and can contribute as a cross-cutting factor to environmental sustainability (culture as a tool to highlight issues raised by climate change), social sustainability (culture as an instrument to foster interaction, ensure cohesion in society and promote diversity) and economic sustainability (culture as a strategic sector generating revenues through sustainable cultural tourism, cultural infrastructure and CCIs). 


culture Solutions is a social innovation group contributing independently to the excellence of EU international cultural relations. We open creative trust-building spaces, we produce commons and broker know-how. We are always open and interested in new collaboration opportunities and in providing support to institutions and organisations with information-sharing, space for dialogue, policy analysis and training activities. If you are interested in a culture-related training or event facilitation, get in touch with culture Solutions’ Training and know-how sharing team.


The views expressed in this article are personal and are not the official position of culture Solutions as an organisation.