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DemoCreatives: Yiaga Africa, WADEMOS, others, partner with Creatives to Renew Democracy in West Africa

Last Friday, Yiaga Africa partnered with the West African Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) to launch Democreatives, a new initiative that is designed to leverage music, drama, dance, and poetry to promote and defend democracy in the region while also celebrating creatives, showcasing their work & highlighting the impact on democracy in West Africa.

The launch, which took place in Lagos, comes against the backdrop of the backsliding of democracy in the region with military coups in Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger Republic while democracies like Senegal showed resilience in ensuring that elections were held as scheduled this year despite the events that threatened it.

The launch was themed “Leveraging the Power, Influence, and Resources of Creatives to Promote and Defend Democracy,’ and it brought together creatives from across West Africa, alongside civil society organisations (CSOs), donors, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and other regional bodies as they convened to discuss forging a mutually beneficial relationship in advocating for democracy.

In her opening remarks, Cynthia Mbamalu, Director of Programmes at Yiaga Africa, emphasised the event’s relevance amidst ongoing discussions and trends surrounding democracy on the continent. She stressed that democratic practices, not mere labels, are essential for a functional democracy, where the freedom of expression is crucial for success—a principle this partnership aims to uphold and promote.

Cynthia Mbamalu, Yiaga Africa’s Director of Programmes speaking at the event.

“We are delighted to be part of the DemoCreatives movement. Globally and within Africa, there’s a growing concern about declining democracy and democratic setbacks. In West Africa, we’ve witnessed an increase in coups and elected leaders turning authoritarian post-election. DemoCreatives aims to redefine democracy for Africans and work towards its enabling and entrenched principles,” she explained.

Dr. Kojo Asante of WADEMOS, who is also a Senior Research Officer at CDD-Ghana, urged collaboration between civil societies and creatives, emphasising the need for a new narrative in the region. He highlighted the pivotal role of creatives in using artistic expression to address social and political challenges.

Dr, Kojo Asante, Senior Research Officer at CDD-Ghana

“Across the sub-region, we witness West Africans expressing their concerns through music, poetry, dance, art, crafts, and literature. DemoCreatives seeks to mobilise these creatives to safeguard and advance democracy, good governance, and inclusive development,” Asante stated.

During the event, various creatives engaged in discussions on advancing democracy, including Grammy-nominated musician Rocky Dawuni, who emphasised the importance of international collaboration and support to amplify the impact of creatives.

“This initiative isn’t just about art; it’s about leveraging our cultural heritage to strengthen democratic institutions. We need a holistic approach that combines advocacy, institutional support, capacity building, and collaboration to foster a supportive environment for creatives to drive political, cultural, and economic development in Africa,” Dawuni remarked.

Popular Nigerian rapper M.I Abaga stressed the importance of aligning with creatives who share democratic values and integrating their perspectives to enhance vision and creativity.

Nigerian rapper M.I Abaga

“When you hang out with someone, you will know what the core of their person is. Rather than giving creatives a job, get to know who they are, and what their values are, then you can connect with them on that level and tap into their creative abilities. At this level, they will propagate your vision even when you’re not in the room,” M.I added.

Emphasising the power of art in reflecting society’s trials, struggles, and dreams, and its ability to nurture critical thinking and empathy, renowned disc jockey Obianuju Udeh AKA DJ Switch highlighted the historical impact of art on social movements. She also cited examples such as the late king of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo’s music and the role of literature in exposing injustice.

Disc jockey Obianuju Udeh AKA DJ Switch, virtually delivering her speech

“There is a need for unity and strategic alliance between civil societies and creatives to combat the enemies of democracy. Civil societies must reimagine their funding strategies and collaborate with creatives to amplify their message and reach a wider audience,” she noted. 

The event featured a variety of performing arts, including speed painting, spoken word, dance, and music performances, through which these creatives expressed their commitment to advancing democracy in West Africa.

The Democreatives Initiative is led by the West African Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) in partnership with Yiaga Africa, the Centre for Development and Democracy – Ghana (CDD-Ghana), Africtivistes and the Awo Hub.

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Yiaga Africa is a non-profit civic hub of change makers committed to the promotion of democratic governance, human rights and civic engagement.

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