Any actor, from a government official to a standard citizen, becomes a facilitator of cultural exchange when he/she comes into contact with a person from a different cultural background. The exchange does not have to be extensive to be profound, as mutual understanding often requires time to develop. It also does not need to be through a specific medium in a specific place, for cultural exchange can take place via a variety of vehicles including arts, sports and literature, as well as through formal academic discussions and educational exchange programmes.
The aim of this report is to present an overview of cultural diplomacy projects or programmes in ten African countries, representing the four regional blocs of the African continent
– North Africa: Morocco and Egypt represent the CEN-SAD bloc (Community of Sahel-Saharan States)
– West Africa: Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria represent the ECOWAS bloc (Economic Community of West African States)
– East Africa: Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya represent the EAC bloc (East African Community)
– South Africa: Zimbabwe and South Africa represent the SADC bloc (Southern African Development Community)
Countries were chosen for each bloc on their basis of contribution to the field of cultural diplomacy. To aid selection, a pilot study was conducted to gain an understanding of the scope of culturally diplomatic activity within each state. As the selection of countries illustrates, the size of a country’s economy is not a precondition for its level of engagement in such activities. Some countries were left out of the selection process due to unstable political conditions and/or conflict.
The report focuses primarily on government-initiated, government-funded or government- sponsored projects, as it aims to evaluate the extent to which the chosen countries’ governments appreciate and invest in aspects of cultural diplomacy. This research will continue to expand the list of cultural diplomacy initiatives, as well as continue to review the programmes included below. Thus, the initial findings in this report will continue to be evaluated in subsequent reports.
There were three main limitations to assessing government-initiated or government-funded projects in these countries. First, cultural diplomacy projects that are solely organised and funded by the governments of the selected countries are rare. To accommodate this challenge, the research focus is expanded slightly to include projects that were jointly run by the government and another sector. For example, some of the included projects have been organised by the private sector, but receive funding or support from a governmental body.
Second, official websites for ministries of culture, as well as for specific projects are often lacking in information. Thus, information in some areas lacks depth, particularly in the funding evaluation for some of the projects. There are certainly many projects that carry out culturally diplomatic activities which proved impossible to research because very little information could be found online
Finally, the aims of these projects were largely drawn from government statements, rather than independent, less politically-motivated sources. The scope of this research did not allow for an independent field assessment and as such, the research had no choice but to rely on the official government positions on these projects, as they provided the most consistently available sources of information.
For each country the following points are presented in the report:
A comparative analysis of cultural diplomacy in the four African regions in which trends, similarities and differences will be assessed and discussed