Following the most recent parliamentary session of June 2020, the bill on artistic and cultural associations was passed into law on July 20th, 2020. The adoption of this law sparked a lot of controversy after its enactment, giving rise to the question over whether it will be beneficial to Cameroonian artists whom it is meant to promote.
Generally, the purpose of the law is to regulate artistic and cultural associations with the aim of promoting the creative industry; preserving national heritage, guiding the Government in decision making which will foster the interests of artists and aid in the structural improvement of the entire sector.
The law requires artistic and cultural associations to be managed under the same system, which as a result, guarantees a better health insurance for artists and provides necessary support to all artistic and cultural associations.
It also requires all artists to belong to a company and mandates those companies to be members of unions, which are expected to be affiliated to guilds. The law makes it obligatory for guilds to work in collaboration with regional federations which will report to the Ministry of Culture directly. The formation of Companies, guilds, associations and federations are subject to authorisation from the Minister of Arts and Culture and this law lays down the relevant application processes
Why so much controversy?
Too Much Bureaucracy Involved
- Bureaucracy by its very character, follows a certain set of rules and regulations, and this is reflective in Law No 2020/011 of 20th July 2020 . It sets out the entire process of obtaining a declaration for the establishment of companies, unions, guilds and federations which imparts a lack of flexibility and can very easily lead to inefficiency and cause unnecessary delays.
- These long and arduous procedures put in place could also easily become tools for corruption.
- The process of artists swiftly getting work done is likely to become more cumbersome as these newly enacted laws may be given greater importance than the end result.
- The rigid nature of the laws are likely to affect decision-making adversely in the sense that, more programmed decisions will be opted for, while newer avenues may never be explored.
- These laws do not encourage the free and expressive nature of arts and entertainment. The numerous policies and procedures put in place are very restrictive as a result.
Critical Examination of Events and Financial Checks
The advent of satellite TV has killed the local entertainment industry and film environment. This is because subscription services are more affordable compared to consuming content produced locally. Locally-produced content incurs high production costs as there are no grants awarded by the state to subsidize costs; making the price for consumers expensive. This law will inadvertently destroy what it set out to preserve because if local content production is made more difficult by the arduous procedures, it becomes cheaper and easier for the market to be flooded by foreign content.
More so, the law does not provide any restrictions on the importation of foreign artistic content to give room for local content to thrive.
Section 25 (I) of this law has made it an obligation for each federation to inform the Minister in charge of Culture about the organisation of national or international cultural events, as well as the terms and conditions of their organisation.
Another pertinent issue has been the fact that artists or those in the culture and arts sector must be granted approval by the Minister of Arts & Culture prior to receiving any funding within and outside of Cameroon. Even worse is the requirement by Law No 2020/011 of 20th July 2020 to be granted authorisation prior to collaborating with international bodies of any kind.
As a direct result of this, artists will be required to obtain approval from the Ministry of Arts and Culture before engaging on musical tours, or performing in collaboration with international artists. This is a huge deterrent towards attracting international collaborations from renowned artists who can easily shift their focus to other neighbouring countries for necessary talent.
Stakeholders not conferred
The law does not seem to encourage participation, which it extols. No known consultation was done with the relevant stakeholders in the sector and as a result, it is quite unclear how artists will benefit from these newly enacted laws regulating the sector.
Limitation to Specific Areas
The entire framework denoting how companies, unions and guilds are required to work based on geographic location poses a problem. This is stipulated in Chapter III, Sections 10 – 18 of the law. Artists are permitted to work without any special authorisations, in the same areas where their unions are affiliated. This makes movement within the country for artistic ventures almost impossible as a result of delays in obtaining the required permits.
There is the question of whether the Cameroonian authorities will maintain a flexible approach. Also, will they be willing to accommodate specific project needs with the passing of these new laws? These questions will be answered soon enough, but there are reasons for some amount of optimism.