As part of their long term vision to expand the community and replicate the model, the Synergy Centre are keen to work with a variety of local partners to open an Accra Synergy Centre to benefit local unemployed young people as well as promote economic, social and cultural development.
- Demand for traditional music in particular, and traditional African cultural goods and services in general, is very high in the West, with many people, particularly the young, turning to the cultures of ‘less developed’ societies for inspiration in their search for alternatives to the spiritual desert of western materialism.
- The attraction and appeal of traditional culture is a powerful but underused marketing tool for tourism to Ghana, as Ghana has a particularly rich traditional cultural heritage, particularly in the traditional music and dance, arts and crafts, spiritual and historical sectors.
- While Ghana has a particularly diverse and strong traditional drumming and dancing heritage, the country lags behind other West African countries such as Senegal and the Gambia in the marketing and promotion of this heritage to attract tourists.
- The Ghanaian traditional cultural sector receives little in the way of investment or management support in Ghana, due to the preference of indigenous investors and managers to support modern or popular cultural products or services. As a result, the wealth of talent in the traditional cultural sector is largely under-developed.
- Tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Ghanaian economy and, if managed ethically and sustainably – whereby all profits are directed towards developing the local communities surrounding a development – can be a powerful driving force to create employment and raise living standards in local communities. Indigenous, Heritage or Ethno-Tourism, whereby the principal attraction is that of learning about the traditions and lives of the indigenous population, is a fast-growing sector of the tourism industry, in which Australia is the market leader, harnessing the global recognition of Aboriginal culture to market Australia to the world.
The Proposed Centre
The proposed Accra Synergy Centre would offer the following services.
- A music venue where contemporary Ghanaian musicians and artists can perform and exhibit.
- Indigenous / Community / Pro-Poor Tourism facility, hosting workshops and exhibitions in a wide variety of traditional cultural practices such as traditional drumming, dancing and singing, traditional religion, herbal medicine, history and social studies. The emphasis of the facility will be to encourage interaction between visitors and the local people, rather than closeting them away in luxurious facilities isolated from contemporary Ghanaian social realities.
- Management School / Consultancy – providing training, hands on experience and on-going support for start up enterprises in the traditional cultural sector and for youth / community projects seeking to promote the economic, social, cultural and spiritual development of the community. . The Centre will focus on providing local traditional cultural practitioners and artists with the necessary support to expand the local indigenous tourism sector, enabling them to benefit from growth in tourism in the local community and also by creating links between local manufacturers of traditional cultural products with wholesalers and retailers oversees
- A volunteering facility, where socially and environmentally conscious westerners can work on a variety of projects to promote the social and environmental welfare of the surrounding community in partnership with local people.
- The centre will also offer facilities for groups of young people from disadvantaged communities in the UK, the EU and the EU periphery to visit Ghana on work experience and personal development youth exchange projects, working with local young people on environmental and community development projects.
- Informal education projects for local young people raising vocational skills and awareness of local, national and international issues relating to the environment and development.
- A community radio station with a broadcast radius of 2-3km, focussing on the development of local cultural talent, particularly amongst the young, assisting them with the acquisition of leadership and project management skills and facilitating the discussion of important social and cultural issues within the community.
- The Centre will be powered solely by wind and solar power, acting as a powerful showcase for renewable energy generation in urban Africa and also enabling the centre to export surplus energy to the national grid, thereby generating surpluses which can be invested in regeneration projects.
- The Centre will also pilot a compost toilet project in which guests using the Centre will have their human waste recycled into compost which will be used on agricultural projects in the proposed rural Synergy Centre in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
- Office Space – for use by centre staff and those of partner organisations working in Ghana with Indigenous People to promote economic development through indigenous tourism.
- Computer facility for use by local volunteers and members of partner organisations plus digital media training in a wide variety of software packages
- Rehearsal and Performance Space for local traditional drumming and dance groups and more contemporary artists.
- Studio and Gallery Space for local visual artists to produce and exhibit their work.
- Beach-side dance floor, stage, cinema and bar – a large open space adjoining the beach with some shaded areas in which workshops / lectures / seminars for local people and visiting tourists can be held.
The primary beneficiaries of the proposed Centre will be young people aged 11-30 living in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Some of them will be in full-time education, others will be out of school, either because their parents cannot afford the school fees or because they have completed school / tertiary education but have not yet found employment. Some of the younger children will be engaged in child labour.
Other beneficiaries will include other people living in surrounding communities who will attend events held at the Centre.
Non-Ghanaian beneficiaries will include young people visiting Ghana to conduct voluntary work, often as part of a gap year. Alternatively, young people visiting the centre on youth exchange projects will come from more disadvantaged communities in the UK and other European countries. Finally, tourists visiting Ghana on holiday will also benefit from the centre, attending events, workshops and going on guided tours of local sites of interest that will be provided by the Centre.
The primary beneficiaries will benefit in the following way :
Participation in a wide range of activities will raise the vocational and life skills of local young people, thereby promoting their personal and professional development. Careers advice and support with the launching of business start-ups in the creative, cultural and heritage tourism sectors will raise their employment prospects and help tackle the scourge of youth unemployment.
Local people attending events held at the Centre will benefit from exposure to Synergy’s unique combination of cultural entertainment and awareness raising, thereby promoting local understanding of issues relating to sustainable development, environmental protection and healthy living. Outreach campaigns run by young people working from the centre will also seek to raise awareness of these themes in the wider community.
Young people from overseas will benefit from the centre by being able to work in partnership with local young people on a variety of education, development and environmental projects. The cultural exchange that will take place as a result of these projects will broaden the understanding of young participants, enabling them to better appreciate their own privilege and to better understand the realities of living in an impoverished African community. Many young people living in disadvantaged communities in the UK are suffering from low-levels of self-esteem, low life expectations and inflated material desires and wants. If these are not satisfied, they become unhappy and alienated.
Some areas of Accra, while experiencing much higher levels of poverty, enjoy comparatively high levels of social cohesion and the youth tend to show much higher levels of respect than their UK counterparts. Ghana is widely recognised as having one of the friendliest and peace loving populations in Africa. The role of traditional cultural institutions such as the elders and the extended family in instilling this respect and promoting peace is one that the Centre seeks to explore through its work with young people, both from overseas and otherwise.
Feedback from volunteers engaged on other projects in Ghana has suggested that there has been insufficient interaction with local people. Synergy projects will be designed so as to maximise contact with local people and therefore to maximise the understanding that will result from the cultural exchange that will take place.
Proposed Organisational Structure
The proposed organisational / legal structure of the proposed centre is proposed to be divided into an entity that will own the asset of the building and the surrounding land and an operating company that will manage the proposed centre and its activities.
Community Land Trust
It is proposed that a Community Land Trust (CLT) be set up, which will own the building and the land on behalf of the community. The land / buildings will therefore be held by the Trust in perpetuity and will not be liable to be sold out from under those who will be investing time and resources in developing it. Advice is required to ascertain what legal entity under Ghanaian law will best meet this need. The CLT will have a management board, with representation of all the major stakeholders in the project on the board.
Operating Company (OC)
The proposed structure for the operation of the building is a not-for-profit company (a company limited by guarantee under UK law). The OC will manage the building and will oversee the delivery of projects and the services run underneath its umbrella. The underlying ethos of the OC will be to facilitate and broker partnerships with the various other organisations running projects at the Centre, acting as an enabling, empowering, advisory and supervisory body for partners rather than necessarily seeking to operate all the services and projects itself. The OC will be run by a Centre Manager, who will be accountable to a board of trustees who will meet monthly.
The OC will make an annual payment to the CLT which will facilitate the development of the asset and for the payment of any out of pocket expenses the board of the CLT may incur. The OC will be responsible for the on-going maintenance of the asset.
Indigenous People is a cultural education charity based in London, England. Since 1996, their primary role has been the promotion and management of Kakatsitsi, a group of traditional drummers from the Jamestown/Usshertown area of Accra, who have conducted 13 successful tours of the UK.
In 2013, Kakatsitsi took a major step forwards with their appearance, in fusion with electronic dance music pioneers The Orb, on the West Holts Stage at the world famous Glastonbury Festival where they perform their ground-breaking fusion set combining traditional rhythms and chants with electronic beats and melodies. The success of Kakatsitsi shows how African traditional culture can be exported to the West in the form of drumming and dance performances, the sale of traditional cultural artefacts such as drums, masks, jewellery, cloth, clothing and herbal medicine products, the profits from which can be repatriated to promote development at home. They are also keen to take advantage of the interest in traditional African culture in the West to promote tourism in Ghana, particularly sustainable and indigenous tourism, whereby local people are the primary beneficiaries of the profits generated. This can only be done by empowering local people in host communities with the necessary resources with which they can take an active, stake-holding role in the tourism economy, insuring profits are reinvested in the local economy rather than expatriated into the hands of foreign investors.
The Synergy Centre, Brighton
In July 2005, Indigenous People and Kakatsitsi were instrumental in setting up a new venture in the deprived South London community of Camberwell – the Synergy Centre. Moving into a large disused clothing warehouse, they and a growing community of fellow artists transformed the space into a thriving local cultural and creative facility, providing low-cost facilities for an economically disadvantaged yet culturally rich local community. Camberwell and the neighbouring communities of Brixton and Peckham have the highest concentration of African people in the UK, including a prominent Ghanaian community. Remittances from these diasporan African represent an important source of finance repatriated to Ghana to support families and promote economic development. The Synergy Centre, as well as acting as a base for the Kakatsitsi drummers, also supported a Black/African theatre company, Collective Artistes and hosted the ‘Hidden Histories’ project – a cultural education project exploring Black British and African history and heritage as well as a development education project in partnership with the British Youth Council. The centre also ran ‘The Synergy Youth Project’ – a series of after-school workshops in music technology, dance (fusing traditional African with UK street styles), African drumming and drama.
The Synergy Centre has since relocated to Brighton, where is is developing a youth and community arts and wellbeing centre.
Nii Ofori Tackie, popularly known as DJ Alordia, is a household name within the Ghanaian music industry. Founder of Alordia Promotions, he has produced some of the biggest selling albums in Ghana including Sydney’s “Apuskeleke”, V.I.P.’s “Ahomka Wo Mu”, Tic Tac’s “Fefe Ne Efe”, amongst others. The award winning DJ has also organised major events in the UK and Ghana such as Hip-Life Festival, Ghana @ 54, which saw Asamoah Gyan and Castro perform for the first time and covered by Sky Sports News, as well as the various annual pool parties, club nights events held in top locations in Ghana and UK.