EASA2014: Collaboration, Intimacy & Revolution


Cultural entrepreneurs in Africa: endeavors, constraints and pathways of success (EASA Africanist Network)

Location M-342
Date and Start Time 01 August, 2014 at 09:00


Tilo Grätz (FU Berlin) email
Dmitri Bondarenko (Institute for African Studies) email
Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

This workshop focusses on cultural entrepreneurs in Africa; e.g. advertising specialists, video entrepreneurs, private school founders, artists or tourism providers. The concept entrepreneurs is used in a wider sense; referring both to economic aspects and personal endeavours.

Long Abstract

This workshop aims to increase understanding and knowledge regarding an influential emerging category of actors in contemporary Africa: cultural entrepreneurs. These individuals currently enjoy a renewed importance due to the recent widespread economic and political liberalization throughout the continent. Thus, we will address these actors and their activities in the realm of cultural enterprises, including advertising specialists, video entrepreneurs, private school founders, artists and/or tourism providers. The concept entrepreneur is thus used in a wider sense; entailing economic aspects like subsistence activities, but also referring to personal endeavours, innovative visions, vocation and various modes of self-realization, respectively. Despite their diversity, these entrepreneurs share two central features that both emerged as a result of contemporary liberalization policies: First, although many initially entered the emerging market economy out of economic necessity, these actors have capitalised on the market through the utilization of personal skills, knowledge and networks. Secondly, they offer services often culturally embedded in the local societies, that consequently become commercialized market products. Thus, we must ask what the consequences of these processes are. What discourses are linked to them? How do the actors themselves view their own activities? What social and/or economic strategies and pathways of success are open to these entrepreneurs? How should we modify western notions of entrepreneurship according to our cases in Africa? We primarily invite papers based on local case studies, but also on wider reflections and theoretical contributions promoting a renewed understanding of entrepreneurs in Africa.

Discussant: Petr Skalnik (University of Wroclaw)

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The entrepreneurial character of social, political or cultural agencies: searching for a transcultural notion of entrepreneurship

Author: Richard Pfeilstetter (University of Seville)  email

Short Abstract

Our contribution suggests an anthropological entrepreneurship concept that does not reduce the term to the popular notion of legal business creation. We suggest that agency driven innovation in relation to local surroundings should be the theoretical core of an anthropological entrepreneurship concept.

Long Abstract

Anthropologists have always understood economic activity as intimately related to all other aspects of human existence (and vice-versa). Specific types of social organizations, ecological conditions or cultural beliefs are at the heart of every specific economic system. This observation is a general result of qualitative research at the micro-social level of economic agencies, such as for instance, the entrepreneur.

Nevertheless, most research on entrepreneurship, mainly conducted by psychologists, sociologists and economists, defines entrepreneurship as enterprise creation. From a non-ethnocentric point of view the classification of social institutions in terms of their own society is not valid transculturally. Our contribution suggests an anthropological entrepreneurship concept that does not reduce the term to the popular notion of legal business creation. We suggest that agency driven innovation in relation to local surrounding should be the theoretical core of the concept of anthropological entrepreneurship.

We present the results of case studies on emerging local institutions not declared or perceived as enterprises. We argue that the economic, social and cultural transformation at a community level fostered by these actors more accurately justifies classifying them as entrepreneurs. The transcultural study of creativity and resilience in the local responses to structural dependency on forces outside the community may be the anthropological contribution to entrepreneurship theory and practice.

A media entrepreneur and his fans in Mali

Author: Ute Röschenthaler (Goethe University Frankfurt)  email

Short Abstract

At the example of a popular radio presenter in Bamako, the capital of Mali, this paper explores entrepreneurship in the organization of cultural events and the creation of media products. It analyses the story of this media entrepreneur, his aspirations and approach that has attracted a large female audience.

Long Abstract

This paper explores entrepreneurship in the organization of cultural events and the creation of media products in Bamako, the capital of Mali. It focuses on one personality that has been particularly successful in this domain and analyses his story, aspirations and entrepreneurial approach. Mande Massa (his artist name) began in the 2000s to work with independent radio stations and gained popularity with a broadcast on family issues that he called Baroni and which is a form of radio theatre in episodes and enacts daily problems and issues that arise in a polygamous family. Mande Massa's audience is predominantly female, and he highlights their worries publicly in the media. His success convinced him to found his own media production company which enabled him to create his own media products independently. His popularity even increased, when he began to organize annual concerts and produced cloth decorated with the images of his radio theatre team, which his fans buy and wear at the concert. I argue that for understanding the success of Mande Massa several conditions were important: a social and political environment which encourages individuals to become entrepreneurs, the skill to develop a vision for the needs and desires of a large group of people (in this case young women) and the ability to conform to social expectations in such a way that his entrepreneurial activity is accepted and appreciated to enhance society and culture.

Boom and crisis of a cultural market: small-scale souvenir vending in Senegalese tourism since the 1960s

Author: Georg Materna (BIGSAS, University of Bayreuth)  email

Short Abstract

Boom and crisis on cultural markets strongly influence the entrepreneurial leeway of people engaged in the sale of cultural commodities. I will retrace the ascension and decay of souvenir vending in Senegal by alluding to trans-local and local discourses around souvenirs and its vendors.

Long Abstract

Senegal's cultural policy in the 1960s was based on President L. S. Senghor's concept of négritude. Senghor perceived culture as a means of development. Due to his initiative, the first World Festival of Black Arts took place in 1966 which boosted the promotion of Senegalese crafts on an international level. Souvenir vending became very lucrative and attracted, next to the craftsmen (ñeeño) who began selling and still hold a major part of the business, large parts of the Senegalese population. Today, however, the boom of African arts is over. Instead of "traditional" artefacts, tourists are buying "recycling art" and clothes.

Conceptualising souvenirs as comments on tourists' experiences, this change reflects a new tourist gaze on Senegal. This new gaze is informed by problems of development, pollution, muddling one's way through life and the utility of the object; but no longer primarily by "traditional Africanity". Souvenir vendors, however, lack the means to influence these "touristic narratives" on a general scale; instead, they try to adapt to tourists' tastes and to "enchant" the tourist in personal interaction.

Structurally, the demand side, personified by tourists, is mostly informed by transnational narratives whereas the supply side, personified by vendors, currently lacks the means to promote its products on such a level. These differences influence the saleability of cultural commodities in the Senegalese context but they need to be generally taken into account when discussing cultural entrepreneurs and cultural markets.

Quality assurance at the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone: a case of 'audit explosion' in a globalizing Africa?

Author: David O'Kane (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)  email

Short Abstract

The University of Makeni is the first private university in Sierra Leone. This paper describes the reactions of the university's staff, and the social entrepreneurs who are its leaders, to the introduction of audit mechanisms often associated with neoliberal ideology.

Long Abstract

Since the early 1990s, some scholars have argued that the world is experiencing a global 'audit explosion', in which practices of auditing previously confined to financial accounting are spreading into new social areas, and, in a rapidly globalizing world, into new geographical areas. One such area may be the West African state of Sierra Leone. In the wake of the civil war of 1991 - 2002, new experiences of audit are appearing as the country reconstructs itself. The private University of Makeni (UNIMAK), which has numerous links with networks both local and global, has introduced quality assurance mechanisms that will involve audit processes of some kind. Their appearance in the country's first private university represents a new chapter in the history of audit mechanisms in Sierra Leone. Using interview and participant observation data, this paper describes both UNIMAK's links with external partners and its introduction of quality assessment and assurance mechanisms. While the ultimate outcome of this process is not yet foreseeable, it seems likely that the introduction of auditing for quality assurance in UNIMAK will be strongly determined by local conditions. Therefore, this paper argues that even if this is a case of the 'audit explosion' reaching post-civil war Sierra Leone, it is also a case that compels us to better integrate local conditions into our understanding of the spread of auditing as a part of twenty-first century globalization.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.