Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Cultural Agenda of the OAU/AU since 1963

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

The Cultural Agenda of the OAU/AU since 1963

Article excerpt

Introduction

Africa is not only rich in natural resources but is endowed with a wide variety of untapped cultural resources embodied in its art, music, languages, belief systems, norms and values; social institutions as well as tangible and intangible heritages representing its past glories and present diversities. However, these resources have largely been subjected to centuries of neglect, misinterpretation, and exploitation by external forces as well as internal mismanagement due to poor resource allocation, shortage of trained personnel, and lack of understanding on the role of culture in the improvement of the other sectors of the economy and social life. Consequently, the continent has lost and continues to lose a considerable amount of its cultural resources. This neglect and mismanagement of African cultural resources has contributed to the persistence of poverty and underdevelopment. It has often been argued that the future of Africa is not so much on the technological advances that the developed world has mastered over many centuries; but rather on the continent's renaissance and rise to prominence in its varied cultural riches.

Therefore, without necessarily abandoning the pursuit of technical innovation, Africa needs to place greater emphasis on areas and sectors where it has comparative advantages. The cultural sector is one of such most promising sectors which should be taken seriously if Africa has to ensure inclusive, sustainable, equitable and people-centered development as set out by the AU's Agenda 2063.

Realizing this fact, the continental umbrella organization, the OAU/ AU, has been attempting to develop cultural policies and programmes with the view to developing them further so that they can facilitate development in the other sectors. However, there exists no systematic account of such policy-making efforts of the OAU/AU over the past 50 or so years. More particularly, not much has been written about the various directives given and decisions/declarations adopted by the relevant policy organs of the OUA/AU: Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council, the Conference of Ministers responsible for culture; as well as other regional or international bodies, including the UENSCO. Consequently, there is an information vacuum on the types of policies and instruments adopted leave alone the status of their implementation. This knowledge gap has resulted in three erroneous assumptions. First, it would appear that Africa has not given enough attention to culture. Second, some tend to assume that African cultures are primitive or traditional and that they do not have noteworthy contributions to economic growth and therefore should be changed through planned technical or cultural change. Third, absence of documented evidence on the various policies and strategies adopted by the OAU/AU has often led to a desperate attempt to come-up with new policies without checking what already exists and how much previously adopted instruments have been implemented.

Objectives of the Study

This paper aims at providing an overview of the OAU's/AU's efforts at generating and formulating continental cultural policy frameworks and priority action areas. By so doing, the paper wishes to describe the major thrusts of the continental agenda in the field of culture and to highlight the emphasis put on culture in different time periods in the history of our continental Organization.

The specific objectives of the current research on the African cultural agenda include (a) to highlight decades of efforts made by the OAU and AU in shaping continental cultural polices enshrined in the various decisions, declarations and frameworks as well as other relevant instruments adopted in the field of culture over the past 50 or so years; this will help shade some light on how African leaders perceive the importance of culture and its role in other aspects of African life; (b) to outline the major and recurring themes in these decisions and policy directives; and (c) to identify specific recommendations on the way forward so as to enhance the development of African cultures and thereby to expand their role in regional integration and sustainable socio-economic development of the continent. …

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