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Committed to promoting cultural dialogue

Culture, a driving force for development 

Ayi J. Francisco d’Almeida, Associate Professor at Senghor University for African development, Alexandria

As a cultural policy expert and adviser of national and international agencies such as UNESCO, the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie and the European Commission, he provides insights into the challenge of culture in development initiatives.

Culture is playing an increasingly important role in the international debate on development and international cooperation. Indeed, demographic growth, socioeconomic inequalities and climate change are now leading us to consider a multidimensional approach to development process, going beyond the economic dimension.


Culture is a catalyst and a driving force of development, a way of living in the world in relation to nature and other people. It is the foundation on which a society bases its organization and determines the style of its evolution. Through development programmes linked to the identity, values and behavioural models of communities, culture is a lever for mobilising people that helps face up to economic and social changes. Thus, the effectiveness of development initiatives depends on their anchoring in their heritage. Cultural operators therefore play a key role in preparing the changes in mentality necessary to cultural development and dialogue.

Therefore, as in Durban (South Africa), Dogon Country (Mali) and Ouarzazate (Morocco), local authorities are seeking to diversify their economic structure and create job opportunities for young people by making the promotion of cultural heritage and artistic expression part of their local development strategy.


By focusing on their cultural heritage and artistic creation, these authorities also aim to strengthen the social bond, improve living conditions and promote cultural dialogue. As a result, forming partnerships with civil society organisations and companies – in view of their social responsibility – is an opportunity for local authorities to foster an interaction between forms of cultural expression, working closely alongside local inhabitants.


The Bandiagara Cultural Mission (1) has been pursuing a programme of safeguarding and promoting tangible and intangible heritage alongside local communities for 20 years. Leaning on the Dogon people’s attachment to their identity and strong tradition of solidarity, the programme makes use of their expertise and forms of cultural expression.

The MCB creates economic opportunities for young people and craftswomen and men by holding festivals and cultural tourism trails and building schools and restoring cultural sites, using local techniques and the materials available in the natural environment. On top of this, three museums have been built with the help of residents whose history and crafts are then promoted.

(1) Under the guardianship of the Malian Ministry of Culture



A 100% Nigerian film phenomenon

Nollywood reflects the cultural dynamism of Nigeria: a country which in addition to its music and fashion, exports its cinema to Africa and the world. With more than 2,000 feature films a year, Nigeria is the second largest film producer in the world behind Bollywood and ahead of the all-powerful Hollywood. Its industry, which was born without outside support in Lagos in the 1990s and is now called “Nollywood”, accounts for 2% of GDP together with the music industry and employs around one million people.

Serge Noukoué, co-founder and executive director of Nollywood Week, the Nigerian film festival in France


How is Nigerian cinema evolving?

For the past fifteen years, the number of cinemas in Nigeria has multiplied - less than 10 in 2004 compared to nearly 200 in 2018 - and local productions have made a phenomenal breakthrough in the last five years. After years of what could be called amateurism, cinema has become more professional; technological means have made a leap forward and filmmakers are better trained. Directors are now looking to produce quality. They are aiming for theatrical releases and international recognition.



What are its specificities?

Popular and authentic, Nigerian cinema affirms its own vision of the world, where Africa is no longer perceived solely through the prism of Westerners. The themes addressed reflect the country’s political, economic and social realities while highlighting its human and cultural values. What is the idea behind the Nollywood Week festival? This festival was created in 2013 in Paris, with the aim of introducing to the Parisian public the best Nigerian film productions every year. This was a crazy bet, given the skepticism in France towards African cinema and the lack of knowledge of Nigerian cinema in particular. The success of this 7th edition proves that we were right to believe in it! Between December and February we call for candidates. The films are then screened with a group of directors, scriptwriters and members of the festival team. And during the festival, over four days, we screen films rigorously selected for their scriptwriters and technical qualities.



How has the festival evolved?

Every year, we try to have a panel that represents the best of all genres (comedy, drama, thriller...), and this in a wide variety of formats (feature films, short films, TV series...). Over the years, we have managed to gain an increasingly wide coverage in the specialized press - which has enabled us to reach more and more people. At the end of each session, we have privileged moments of discussion between the public and filmmakers. Next year, we will launch training sessions on specific aspects of the profession (sound recording, work on light, animation...).

For the first time this year, Nollywood Week was held simultaneously in Paris and Marseille. Is this a proof that this cinema finds its audience in France?

While there is still a long way to go before Nigerian cinema fully finds its place in French cinemas, we are proud to have been able to organize the festival simultaneously in Paris and in Marseille. It is a real promise of hope for access to diversified cinema in our country.

Popular and authentic, Nigerian cinema affirms its own vision of the world, where Africa is no longer perceived solely through the prism of Westerners.

Serge Noukoué co-founder and executive director of Nollywood Week, the Nigerian film festival in France


Africa takes the stand

Initiated by Emmanuel Macron, the President of the French Republic, the Africa2020 Season will take place throughout France (mainland and overseas territories) from June 1st to mid-December 2020. Dedicated to the 54 states of the African continent, the Africa2020 Season is an extraordinary project. Designed around the major challenges of the 21st century, it will present the views of the African civil society and its recent diaspora. Africa2020 will be the sounding board for the changemakers who are impacting contemporary societies.

N’Goné Fall, General Commissioner of Africa2020

Born in 1967 in Dakar, graduate of the École spéciale d’architecture of Paris, N’Goné Fall directed the Revue Noire for 8 years. As an exhibition curator, she has designed projects in Africa, Europe and the United States and has become a key figure on the international cultural scene. “Its mission will be to promote in France, the image of an Africa in motion and in full mutation”, according to the press release by the French Ministry of Culture.


What is Africa2020’s ambition?

The idea is to tell the story of Africa as it is experienced by Africans. It is an invitation to look at and understand the world from their point of view, without the French perspective, by giving their vision of contemporary issues and by talking about what moves the lines: innovation, entrepreneurship, sustainable development, the millenials that reinvent the continent, etc. Africa2020 is not a showcase but a meeting: we multiply our views on societies and live together.

Africa2020 is not a cross-cultural season…

There will be no French program in Africa. This is a first for this kind of event. This makes it possible to move away from a logic of event-promotion. Especially since I have a totally free hand and I am faithful to the independence of mind I have always demonstrated as editor of the contemporary art magazine Revue Noire, and then as cultural policies consultant.

What is the focus of the season? With what bias?

There will only be new pan-African, multidisciplinary creations focused on contemporary art; no labelling of existing projects. The initiatives are led by African artists in joint-construction with French cultural, scientific and higher education institutions. This choice requires major operators accustomed to working in their own corner to find an African partner and collaborate together from scratch.

How is the programming structured?

The season is built on five themes: the oral transmission of knowledge in the digital age, the redistribution of resources and economic emancipation, history and memory, travel and the notion of territory, and citizen engagement through systems of disobedience. Projects explore one or more of these themes through art, economics, science, technology, gastronomy, design, fashion, architecture and urban sports. Spaces for sharing knowledge, exchanging experiences, interactions, mediation and mentoring, they must foster collective intelligence. “HQ’s”, temporary pan-African cultural centres, will also be set up in several cities to retain a local audience.

Africa2020 is not a showcase but a meeting: we multiply our views on our societies and live together. 

N’Goné Fall General Commissioner of Africa2020

Promoting diverse and vibrant cultures to grow humanly

Operating in 130 countries, our Group knows that maintaining dialogue between diverse cultures and heritages is key to encouraging respect for differences, openness, sense of community, growth and human rights.

Anne-Claire Lienhardt, Head of Culture and Heritage at Total’s Civil Society Engagement Division

In light of globalization and the need for mutual understanding, it is crucial to emphasize the specificities and diversity of the cultural wealth of the regions in which we operate.

Through the initiatives we support, we want to contribute to building relationship, strengthening freedom of expression and creating shared values and allowing these territories to shine. We believe that bringing together plural identities is a way to open up to the world, increase tolerance and curiosity.

Protection of cultural heritage, creative practice, art transmission contribute to the dissemination and practice of rich and vibrant cultures, sources of openness, freedom and non-discrimination. In particular, access to culture and art education play a key role in the acquisition of social skills, empowerment, insertion and fulfilment of the youth.

We therefore finance projects that integrate culture as a vector for the development of territories and young people, in close synergy with relevant players and by bolstering the ability to act of local communities, so that their impact is magnified on the ground.

We support young contemporary creations and the emergence of innovative art projects such as the 2018 edition of the Kampala Art Biennale.


We promote art education for socially vulnerable young people and access to culture for people in remote areas. Among other initiatives, in South Africa we provided financial support for the Sibikwa Arts Centre and for Buskaid Sowet, two organisations where young people from disadvantaged backgrounds can learn art practices.


Initiated in 2014, the Kampala Art Biennale is a key event in the contemporary African art scene in Uganda.

Directed by Simon Njami, an influential curator and art critic of Cameroonian origins, the 2018 Biennale included the exhibition of works by artists from across the continent and meetings to help consolidate the position of African artists on the international stage.

Within this framework, Total supported an original transmission and dialogue initiative. Seven internationally renowned African artists hosted 35 young artists from different African countries in residence for ten days.

This sharing and artistic dialogue between confirmed masters and the young emerging generation has enabled the creation of several original collective or individual works, some of which would be exhibited during the Biennale.

In the context of Total Foundation’s sponsorship, Total Uganda’s teams, associated to the highlights of the Biennale, also participated in activities with young artists in residence, including a workshop with the curator Simon Njami, to discuss the issue of art and critical thinking in their daily environment.