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.