The Forum of Mayors on Culture:A major step for the development of Africa through the cultural policies of its cities and territoriesThe Forum of Mayors on Culture:

In the framework of the celebration of Rabat, the very first African Capital of Culture, organized under the High Patronage of His Majesty King Mohammed VI, over 250 delegates gathered on 23 and 24 May in Rabat, Morocco, in the Forum of Mayors on Culture on the theme “Making culture a pillar of sustainable development of our cities and territories”. 

The official opening ceremony was marked by the presence of Mr. Mohammed Mehdi Bensaid, Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication, Ms. Asmaa Rhlalou, President of the Communal Council of Rabat, Ms. Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President of the Region of Nouakchott and President of UCLG Africa, Mr. Giorgio Ficcarelli of the European Commission, and Mr. Jean Pierre Elong Mbassi, Secretary General of UCLG Africa. In addition to these official personalities, many inspiring personalities underlined the importance of culture in the sustainable development of African cities and territories.

Mr. Mohammed Mehdi Bensaid, Minister of Youth, Culture and Communication, stressed the importance of promoting cultural diversity by stating: “We aspire to recast our cultural policies and create a space for exchange both physical and cultural. This experience should be extended to the whole continent“.

Ms. Fatimetou Abdel Malick, President of the Region of Nouakchott and President of United Cities and Local Government of Africa (UCLG Africa), expressed her vision by saying: “This forum offers a unique opportunity to reflect on how we can make culture the fourth pillar of sustainable development of our cities and territories. Together, we can create innovative and inclusive cultural policies that will strengthen our social and economic fabric.”

Ms. Asmaa Rhlalou, President of the Rabat City Council, highlighted the importance of the role of mayors in the development of cultural policies: “We, mayors play a major role in local, regional and national development, and continue to do so without stopping. Thanks to this era of decentralization and advanced regionalization, we are closer than ever to our fellow citizens“. 

Mr. Giorgio Ficcarelli, from the European Commission, underlined the commitment of the European Union to the promotion of culture in Africa by stating: “The dialogue with Africa is based on the knowledge of the specificity of African culture“.

Participants in the Forum came from all the regions of Africa and from other parts of the world. 

The Forum first received a Keynote Speech on “Harnessing culture and heritage to reshape mindsets for Africa’s structural transformation” by Mr. Celestin Monga, Professor at Harvard University

The Forum organized a panel discussion among mayors and leaders of territorial governments around the following topics: 

  1. New development perspectives of African cities and territories through culture and creative industries introduced by Ms. Valerie Marcolin, Expert, Culture and Development; followed by a panel that brought together the Mayors of Nouakchott, Mauritania; Dakar, Senegal; Kibouende, Congo; and the President of the Association of Local Authorities of Namibia;
  • Putting culture and creative industries at the heart of the city’s or territory’s attractiveness and development: Lessons learned from the experience of cultural cities and the European capitals of culture, introduced by Mr. Jordi Pascual, UCLG World Secretariat, and followed by a Panel that brought together the city of Bologna, Italy; the city of Bilbao, Spain; the city of Izmir, Turkey; the city of Matera, Italy; and the Austria member of the Jury of the European Capital of Culture;
  • Designing a local policy on culture, heritage and creative industries using the 7 keys proposed by the UCLG Commission on culture, introduced by Mr. Antoine Guibert, Expert, Agenda 21 for Culture, UCLG; followed by a Panel bringing together the city of Lilongwe, Malawi; the city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe; the Commune of Yoff in Dakar, Senegal; the Commune of Yopougon in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire;
  • The Manifesto for the Renewal of African and Afro-descendent Culture,  introduced by Mr. Eugène Ebodé, Writer, Administrator of the Chair of African Literature and Arts, the Academy of the Kingdom; followed by a Panel of national associations of subnational and local governments: Moroccan Association of Presidents of Communal Councils (AMPCC); Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON); Association of Mayors of Central Africa (AMCA); National Association of Mayors of Comoros (ANMC); South African Local Government Association (SALGA) ;
  • 5. Towards a Copyright Friendly Label of cities, introduced by Mr. Samuel Sangwa, International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers for Africa; followed by a Panel Discussion on the Roadmap with a Representative of the Regulators; the Director of the Moroccan Office of Copyright; Representative of the Elected officials in charge of the cultural commission of the cities; Director, Movement of Creative Africa (MOCA), and artistic advisor of Paris city.

The Forum welcomed the proposal by African Ministers of Culture to organize an Economic Conference on Culture and Creative Industries (CCIs), bringing together the stakeholders in, cities and territorial governments, with the CCIs, the Ministers of culture, the Ministers of trade and the Ministers of Economy and Finance, to reflect on the value chains of cultural and creative industries, with the aim to integrate culture as one of the main pillars of the African Continental Free Trade Area.

To maintain the flame of African culture among the youth on the continent and in the Diaspora, the Forum resolved that culture should be included in the educational curricula of our countries, so should also the promotion of a common African language to facilitate communication across the continent, not forgetting however the protection of disappearing African languages.

The Forum also resolved that the protection of the intellectual property of artists and their work and the preservation of African cultural identity should be among the priorities on the agenda of the cultural and creative industries in Africa. 

The Forum appreciated therefore positively the adoption of the Copyright Friendly Label and invited all cities and operators in the field of arts, heritage and cultural and creative industries to subscribe to and promote this label. 

The Forum proposed the establishment of a Pan-African mechanism to be in a position to negotiate with the groups operating digital and mobile platforms the payment of rights to artists and their work. To avoid the looting of the works of African creators, the Forum proposed also the setting up at the Pan-African level of a body that would be in charge of tracking the origin of African cultural goods and the restitution of those outside the continent.

The Forum unanimously adopted the Manifesto for the Renewal of African and Afro-descendant Culture. This Renewal is about defending and promoting Africa’s cultural identity and authenticity, showcasing the excellence of African culture and creativity to the world and taking its rightful place and share in the global cultural economy; not forgetting the critical role of arts, culture, sports and creative industries in contributing to the attractiveness and branding of our cities and territories, but also in building our living-togetherness and peace.

The Forum acknowledged that the call for expression of interest to be designated as the next African Capital of Culture is open to candidates from 24 May 2023, and that a letter of expression of interest shall be sent to the Secretariat General of UCLG Africa in that regard.

The Forum commended the City of Rabat and the Government of Morocco for having put high the flag of African Capital of Culture. 

The Forum also commended UCLG Africa for the concept and its sound implementation materialized by the efficient organization of the celebration of Rabat, first African Capital of Culture.

The Forum asked the President of the Rabat Communal Council to be the mouthpiece of the participants to extend their greetings to His Majesty King Mohammed VI for having granted His High Patronage to the celebration of Rabat, African Capital of Culture and ask her to prepare and submit on behalf of the Forum a 

Motion of Thanks to His Majesty King Mohammed VI.

Photo Album of the Mayors Forum on Culture, 23 may 2023

Photo Album of the Mayors Forum on Culture, 24 may 2023

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