ICACD puts culture on the development agenda in Africa

May 2008 -

Cultural seasoning has been missing from the development stew for far too long in Africa. That was the challenge for delegates from seventeen countries when they met in Kumasi, Ghana in April 2008, for the first International Conference on African Culture and Development.

They discussed ideas for improving governance structures, aid programs, conflict resolution methods and economic development plans using culture as the lens, rather than ignoring it.
"We are a passion driven people who have come to realize that culture is conspicuously missing from virtually all developmental agendas, developmental activity", says one of the conference organizers, David Kwao-Sarbah. "Tell me the position of culture in the millennium development goals. You will not find it there."

The organizers' goal was to create a platform for academics, artists and cultural policy-makers to not only discuss and make recommendations for long-term plans of action, but also to give participants the opportunity to share and refine ideas that can be used immediately. "Having talked to the South African National Arts Council, they're quite interested in the work that's happening in Australia and the restructuring that's being done in the funding programs and how that may influence the reviews they're currently doing," says Gemma Pepper of the West Australia Department of Culture and the Arts. "So those kind of interactions have been quite valuable."

Participants also gained inspiration from trips to various cultural sites. After watching displays of weaving at a traditional Kente cloth village near Kumasi, two visiting farmers decided to put one of the methods into practise immediately when they returned home.
"Culture", says Kwa-Sarbah is "like salt in the preparation of food. You cannot leave it out and have a tasty meal!"