The recent Botswana International Music Conference (BIMC) has come up with a number of resolutions that are targeted at developing the arts and culture industry in Botswana.
The conference, which was the first of its kind in Botswana, attracted various players to share ideas and knowledge on how to build successful brands and enhance the local performing arts industry. Experts from neighbouring countries were also invited to share their experiences. One of them, Professor Jonathan Shaw from South Africa, called on government and the private sector to join hands and overcome the challenges faced by the arts industry.
Shaw added that unlike many other countries Botswana has many funding opportunities, which however are not streamlined to ensure easy access. He recommended that since there is no arts council the Ministry of Youth Sport and Culture (MYSC) should look to the Alcohol Levy for funds.
“In South Africa the Department of Arts and Culture annually recommends 2500 projects to the Lottery Board for funding. MYSC should consider doing the same and use the alcohol levy to fund its flagship projects,” said Shaw.
He urged the MYSC to liaise with the Ministry of Trade and Botswana Gambling Authority to unlock potential funding for the arts, just like the South African Gambling Board which contributes close to R200 million annually to the arts. In Botswana, the Gambling Authority receives P20million annually from Casinos, and Shaw believes that reserving at least 25 percent for arts development could go a long way. He also encouraged the MYSC to liaise with the European Union (EU) to see how the EU Small Grants could be used to finance arts NGOs.
“This could help build capacity in these NGO’s to a point where they are self-sustainable and no longer reliant on MYSC for funding. Artists could also be capacitated to a level where they can write above par proposals.”
While he applauded the MYSC for trying to revive cultural and community festivals, Shaw said it’s equally important to host large scale events that can contribute meaningfully to the economy. He gave an example of the Cape Town Jazz Festival, which is the fourth biggest jazz festival in the world, which earns the city of Cape Town a gross income of R2.7 billion.
“Similarly, the Harare International Trade Fair is the lifeline of the Harare economy as it has an economic impact of SAR247 million annually,” said Shaw.
He called on stakeholders to strengthen events such as The Hamptons, Gaborone International Jazz Fest, Gaborone International Music and Culture Week, and other cultural festivals.
“Government needs to encourage locals to come up with events that can rival regional festivals and have a positive impact on domestic tourism and growth of cultural tourism in Botswana,” said Shaw.
He added that the MYSC should partner with the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism as well as the private sector to come up with a cultural tourism growth strategy. The strategy, he said, should clearly outline focus areas for development and investment from a capacity building and funding perspective to avoid under or over funding of events and activities. Other resolutions from BIMC include calls for the Blank Tape Levy to be simplified “as it only benefits large scale proposal writers and concept owners.” The conference further urged the MYSC to consider including the music industry in the poverty eradication program.
“HRDC should also be engaged on the possibility of establishing scholarships for artists or training programs and workshops in the arts.”