The continuation of the Cultural Fund Malawi (CFM) hangs in the balance after a key partner, the Norwegian government is sceptical of the second batch of funds.
Provided by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the Malawi embassy, the CFM was established in 2016 with the aim of contributing to a dynamic, free and diverse cultural sector for improved living standards, economic growth and poverty reduction in Malawi.
Currently supporting several stakeholders including the creative industry, the fund however is in its third and last year.
Managed by Hivos Foundation, Hub for Southern Africa through the Malawi office, it is not clear if there will new funding levels, according to Norwegian Ambassador to Malawi, Stainar Hagen.
“Our budget for culture sector was heavily reduced. In addition, budget for 2019 is not yet approved. So it is not clear at the moment if support to MCF will continue,” he said.
However, the ambassador said based on their assessment, the project has achieved its intended purpose.
“A review which has recently been conducted also confirms that the MCF has positive effects on cultural activities, and we are also convinced that the support has contributed to the implementation of the National
Cultural Policy. The Embassy has no problems with the current management of the MCF and we see no reason to change the administration or grants selection process,” he said.
Hivos Regional Program Manager for Transparency and Accountability and Country Contact Person, Baldwin Chiyamwaka in a separate interview, was optimistic of the continuation of the fund.
“From our quarterly and annual reports, we have observed early signs of project impact on the Arts and Cultural Industry in Malawi. Since the launch of the CFM in May 2016, the funds beneficiaries or partners
have carried out a number of activities, which have resulted in a number of significant improvements in the arts and cultural sector in Malawi,” he said.
Some of the impact areas include a coordinated support to the arts and cultural sector and efficient secretariat, capacity building, collaboration and sharing of resources among others.
“A number of activities were carried out to achieve these objectives. They include Blantyre Arts Festival, Lake of Stars 2017 and 2018 which provided a platform for artists and cultural organisations and practitioners to showcase their creative productions, the work of Music Crossroads Malawi, Nanzikambe Arts, Light of Youth Creative Organisation and other organisations provided training to the youth, women and vulnerable groups to acquire skills in various Arts performances.
“The most classic was the Cultural Indaba which the Department of Performing Arts at Chancellor College, University of Malawi organized to provide training using both academic and traditional approach drawing on arts and cultural performances from different parts of Malawi,” he explained.
He dubbed the project as a great success as there were no cases of misuse of the grants.
“The beneficiaries were able to account for the grants through financial and audited reports. There are few small organisations that still need support to develop their institutional capacities so that they should have robust systems to enable them become more effective and efficient in their use of grants,” he said.
Commenting on the future of the CFM, Chiyamwaka said: “Although they have not made a commitment yet, we hope they will continue supporting the arts and cultural sector in Malawi this is because they have on
several occasions expressed satisfaction with the project.”
As the administrator, Hivos has since highlighted the need to change some of the processes.
“For example, the assessment method to include broader criteria so that a greater variety of arts and cultural productions can stand a chance to be selected. This is not to say that the current one was limited but that we can improve,” he said.
Over the past three years, the CFM has supported a total of 21 arts and cultural organisations with grants provided to film, theatre, music and dance, creative writing and publishing.