What is The Arterial Network?   

Arterial Network is a dynamic network of individuals, organizations, donors, companies and institutions engaged in the African creative and cultural sector.

  The Arterial Network started as a dynamic, continent-wide network of non-government organisations, creative industry companies, festivals and individual artists engaged in the African creative sector at a conference – Revitalising Africa’s Cultural Assets - on Goree Island, March 2007. 

 At its second biennial meeting in Johannesburg, September 2009 attended by 132 delegates from 28 African countries, a decision was taken to build a more formal network which led to the adoption of a constitutional framework, the election of a ten-person Steering Committee (two per African region), the appointment or election of 28 country representatives and the adoption of strategic priorities for the next 3-5 years.  
Arterial Network is administered by a Secretariat based in Cape Town, South Africa. The network has also decentralised its operations by establishing  regional secretariats in West and East Africa, Mali and Kenya, respectively. Central, South and North African Secretariats will soon be established.

How many National  chapters have been launched in Africa?   

Since the adoption of the Constitutional Framework, national chapters are at the core of Arterial Network’s structure as they are the primary means to change the working conditions and to deliver real and substantial benefits to artists on the ground. Arterial Network is now structured as continental (African) network of national networks. 40 national chapters have been officially launched to date:


NORTHERN AFRICA: Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Tunisia and Morocco

WEST AFRICA: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Guinea and Gambia

EASTERN AFRICA: Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Mauritius 

CENTRAL AFRICA: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon

SOUTHERN AFRICA: Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe 



 It is in this context that the vision of Arterial Network is of a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable African creative civil society sector engaged in qualitative practice in the arts in their own right, as well as in a manner that contributes to development, to human rights and democracy, and to the eradication of poverty on the African continent.

The African Context

 Africa is much more than the usual images of war, famine, poverty and disease.  It is also a continent of natural beauty, rich in resources, warm and generous people and vibrant cultural life.  It is not one homogenous whole; rather conditions vary considerably between regions and countries as well as within countries.
However, there are various international indicators that reflect the context in which arts practitioners live and work on the continent, conditions which present challenges but also serve to shape their practice.
The United Nations Human Development Index that measures life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living in 182 countries list 38 countries in the Very High Human Development category, with no African country featured in this category.
Libya is the only African country in the list of 44 countries ranked in the High Human Development category, featuring at 55. It is possible to live to an average of 77 in Libya, but there is no democracy and the country has a poor human rights record.
Of the 50 countries ranked at the bottom of the Human Development Index, 39 are on the African continent, and this excludes Zimbabwe and Somalia for lack of data i.e. more than three-quarters of African countries reflect among the lowest in terms of life expectancy, literacy, income and general quality of life in the world.  Even South Africa, with the largest economy, among the highest economic growth rates on the continent and 4 free elections in 15 years, is ranked at only 129 out of 182 countries, reflecting the challenges that countries with significantly smaller economies face.
A third of African countries have average life expectancies of 50 or below. 
Less than 16 countries are considered to be electoral democracies, with 27 (half the continent’s countries) deemed to be pseudo-democracies (democracies on paper but where authoritarian governments do not allow change through elections) and nearly a fifth are dictatorships i.e. with no elections or one-party elections.  This has implications for the practice of and respect for human rights in Africa.
Currently, there are armed conflicts in at least seven African countries so that huge amounts of resources are expended on or lost through conflict rather than invested in development.  Numerous conflicts assume a cultural character whether Muslim-Christian conflicts in Nigeria, ethnic conflicts that form the basis of electoral or political conflicts e.g. Kenya, or xenophobia e.g. South Africa.
A third of African countries will celebrate 50 years of independence (and concomitant development) in 2010.  Yet the Millennium Development Goals resonate most with the African experience: Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education; Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women; Goal 4: Reduce child mortality; Goal 5: Improve maternal health; Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability; Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development.
Key challenges on the continent are poverty (most people live on less than $2 US per day), the lack of democracy and respect for human rights and the absence of the requisite skills, literacy and education to drive and sustain multi-sector development .
At the same time, the continent is subject to competing geo-political forces (USA, EU, China, Brazil and India) that see Africa’s natural resources as key to their future economic growth and sustainability.  This competition and global interests pose further challenges to the kind of development that will take place in Africa and the growth – or not - of democracy and human rights on the continent.

 Development and Culture

 International support to the African continent is shaped by the discourse of development (for which there are numerous definitions or emphases). 

 Some agencies and multilateral institutions frame their support to the continent in terms of “the cultural dimension of development.”


Our vision is rooted in our context and we pursue our vision in the framework of the cultural dimension of development which we understand as follows:


1. First, we define development as “the ongoing generation and application of resources (financial, human, infrastructural, etc) to create and sustain the optimal conditions (social, political, economic, etc) in which human beings enjoy the full range of rights and freedoms espoused in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.


2. Our view of “the cultural dimension of development” is as follows:


2.1. Article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone shall have the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community (and) to enjoy the arts….”.  We believe that development, in creating the optimal conditions for the full expression of human rights and freedoms, must by necessity create the conditions for this right to be enjoyed simultaneously along with other rights and freedoms.


2.2 Development, human rights and democracy present challenges and ruptures to the worldviews, beliefs, values and traditional practices of many communities.  In this way, the culture of a community – in its broad anthropological sense –can inhibit or facilitate development (as defined above).  A Millennium Development Goal such as promoting gender equality may challenge a traditional cultural practice.  Another goal such as reversing the spread of HIV/AIDS may be thwarted by polygamous cultural practices or the influence of religion on the use of condoms.  Culture and development are thus integrally linked as development strategies, human rights and democracy are themselves premised on particular values, worldviews and beliefs.


2.3 The cultural dimension of development is not only relevant to the supposed beneficiaries of development, but also to those in the global north or in well-resourced economies who drive the development agenda often in terms of their strategic economic and/or security interests.  The values, beliefs, ideological assumptions and worldviews of these development drivers also need to be interrogated with regard to their influence on, and shaping of, development practices and strategies in the global south.


2.4 The arts are important means in development as carriers, interpreters and celebrants of the values, beliefs and worldviews and practices that construct individual and community identity i.e. they are integral to the cultural life of a community.


There are three broad categories of artistic practice each relevant to development as defined above:

2.4.1 the arts as having value in their own right: for personal catharsis, enjoyment, stimulation, affirmation of identity, etc i.e. the arts for personal development

2.4.2 the arts instrumentalised for a socially-good end e.g. to promote intercultural dialogue, to educate communities about good health practices, to raise awareness of climate change i.e. art for social development and

2.4.3 the arts as economic drivers e.g. creative industries to create employment, generate income, reduce poverty, etc i.e. art for economic development


We believe that these are all equally valid categories of artistic practice within a developmental framework and that they necessarily co-exist (often – and in our view, unnecessarily - in tension with each other as emphasis is placed on one or the other depending on the prevailing social, political or economic conditions).