South African Cultural Observatory

#SACOConf2017: Africa Day Address - Mr Vusi Sibiya

BY Vusi Sibiya, Chief Director: IGR and Strategic Partnerships in the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation 29.05.17

THERE is no doubt that the greatest asset that Africa other than its raw materials is the youth. The development trajectory of our continent will be determined by the investment each and every individual country makes on this asset.

Our large youth population is usually dismayed at the average age of its national leaders.  Our continent boasts of the youngest population in the world and yet its leaders are also the world’s oldest.

Statisticians will tell you that Africa has a median age of 19,5 and an average of 18 years. Given that statistical context, half of Africa’s population of over 1,2 billion, is younger than 19,5 years. Yet, strangely, the average age of all Presidents in our continent is 61 years.   It is said that the 10 oldest presidents have an average age of 79 in a continent that has no less than 460 million people aged under 14.

Professor David E. Kiwuwa, an Associate Professor of International Studies at Princeton University published unpalatable statistics which averred that  85% of one country  were born after their President came into power in 1979, while 83% of citizens of another neighbouring  country were not born when their President came into power in 1980.

It is therefore imperative that as a continent we must put in place policies that maximize on the benefits that can be derived from having a large working age population. We must invest in their education, their health and employment opportunities.

One may ask what these statistics have to do with celebration of Africa Day.  In most instances celebration of Africa Day by governments in the continent is symbolic and ceremonial. There is nothing wrong with that, however we as Africans need to be honest and confront our demons. We need to re-look at our institutions and political systems. Do they serve Africans or the elite of our societies? What kind of leadership do they breed?

How do we relate to one another in terms of trade and investment? How do we harness our creative and cultural industries to ensure that economic benefits accrue to the majority? How do we ensure that we set the agenda and dictate how our raw materials are exploited?

How do interrogate the relationship between scarcity of basic resources and means of basic survival to incidents of xenophobia. Across the continent we had Universities which were repositories of knowledge and excellence, yet most of our academics are found in other continents.

Programme Director;

There is no doubt that parades and waving of flags provides nourishment to Pan-African emotions, but we need to be brutally honest to ourselves and admit that the current trajectory is unsustainable.

We need to focus on building political systems and institutions which are designed to outlive personalities. Without sound institutions we will allow continuation of a narrative of elevation of certain people who are died in wool sycophants who transform themselves into “great” political personalities, and “big men” despite their lack of character and/ or competence.

Before I take my seat, allow me to delve into the economic importance of the cultural and creative industries in our continent. We constantly hear people perorating on the political economy, yet very little is said about “cultural economy”. As a continent we are supposed to be very rich culturally, yet this wealth is not discernible.

Most of our countries in the continent are navigating through painful and divisive histories, and in so doing turn to drama, music, film and literature to deal with their past. This release of artistic energy provides us as a continent with opportunities to share stories of suffering, and to rekindle the ability to imagine again.

There is no doubt that a broad and expanded definition of culture and creative industries should not be limited to the narrow prism of a social phenomenon.

Just as culture and creative industries are part of the economy, the economy is also part of culture and creative industries. As a continent we have a responsibility to ensure that we create conducive conditions that allow our cultural environments and creative industries disposition to breed economic prosperity.

This is a responsibility for all role players. Most of us will know that in the United States, most successful musicians would have excelled in church choirs. When disciplines such as dramatic arts were not accessible to most aspirant artists the breeding ground was the stage plays which were performed at schools and community halls.

While one appreciates the fact that there are competing demands on the public purse due to our past, we need to elevate the value of cultural and creative industries to economic growth. In 2016, the Cultural Times (the first global map of the cultural and creative industries) estimated that cultural and creative industries generated US$250 billion in revenue a year, creating 29.5 million jobs worldwide.

In 2014, South Africa conducted its own mapping on the contribution of cultural and creative industries to the economy. Results showed that the industries created between 162,809 and 192,410 jobs, about 1.08% to 1.28% of employment in the country, and that they contributed 2.9% to GDP.

These industries are more attractive to people under the age of 35, therefore they could go a long towards breaking the back of unemployment among young people.

This therefore calls for initiatives to invest in township theatres in order develop aspirant artists. The genres of music that we have can be a source of wealth not only for individual artists but for the continent as a whole.

The messaging inherent in creative arts can be a vehicle to address social ills such as abuse of women, rape and lawlessness. Hence the Gauteng Provincial Government is committed to use Arts and Culture as vehicles to promote Social Cohesion and Nation Building.

Programs such as Arts in schools are being expanded to ensure that learners who had no access also benefit. To promote Arts in Schools, a total of 35 facilitators were contracted to implement the programme in 35 schools benefitting 17 127 learners (8 267 boys and 8 860 girls) who participated in the Programme. The East Rand School of the Arts subsequently represented Gauteng at the National Grahamstown Arts Festival.  

We therefore call on parents to provide requisite support to their children who are involved in these programmes, because we are of the firm belief that these are not mere extra curricula activities. These programmes are an intrinsic part of the formation of socially integrated citizens.

We are therefore confident that Africa as a continent which has a very young population, development of, and investment in cultural and creative industries will go a long way towards forging national and continental identities while contributing to economic growth.

 Thank you.

Vusi Sibiya

Chief Director: IGR and Strategic Partnerships in the Gauteng Department of Sport, Arts, Culture and Recreation

Ends.

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