Jean-Luc Sonhaye Gbati, winner of the ACP-EU Culture AWA programme

The mission of the PAPRICAI incubator is to respond to the structuring needs of the creative and innovation sectors.

Jean-Luc Sonhaye Gbati is head of the PAPRICAI incubator, a unique project that supports cultural initiatives in Togo and West Africa. The ACP-EU Culture AWA programme, notably supported by the Institut français, supports this initiative with the aim of structuring the cultural and creative industries (CCI) in West Africa. 

Updated on 19/07/2023

5 min

Jean-Luc Sonhaye Gbati
© DR

Could you tell us about your background? 

I am a lawyer by training with a master's degree in business law. I also have a professional master's degree in Cultural Industries Management from Senghor University in Alexandria (Egypt) and a PhD in Cultural Development from the Regional Institute for Higher Education and Research in Cultural Development. Moreover, I have more than fifteen years of professional experience in the field of cultural policy administration and sponsorship. I am also co-founder of several cultural and creative organisations and startups. In recent years, I have been working mainly on creative innovation in Africa, particularly on the use and contribution of technology to the African creative sector. 


Could you tell us more specifically about your project for PAPRICAI (Plateforme pour l’Aide aux Projets et Initiatives de Création d’Activités Innovantes)? What are its distinctive features in the Togolese and West African cultural landscape? 

The PAPRICAI incubator, created in 2014, is the first support structure for innovative creative entrepreneurship specialised in supporting cultural and digital industries in Togo. Its mission is to respond to the structuring needs of the creative and innovation sectors, in particular by providing technological optimisation services to managers and investors. We have thus developed a global support system promoting synergies, networking and interdisciplinary exchanges, called EDOU (which means "together" in the Mina language of Togo). It is a tool for the development of knowledge and skills which has several components—offering residence, creation and co working spaces, shared office equipment, flexible physical accommodation, training rooms and a microcredit programme. 


How does it fit in with the ACP-UE Culture AWA programme supported by the Institut français? 

After eight years of activity and with six cohorts of incubated companies, the PAPRICAI incubator is stepping up a gear with an improved version of its system. It will be based on its unique concept of a three-pillar structural system, consisting of an online training platform, an online support platform and a community financing platform for innovative creative initiatives. This new vision is embodied in the PAPRICAI+ project supported by the AWA programme which, in its "Structuring Fund" component, is consistent with our objectives. The priorities of the AWA Programme are indeed the creation of quality goods and services in a dynamic of professionalisation, access to national, regional and international markets, and access to financing via innovative mechanisms favouring co-financing. 

Jean-Luc Sonhaye Gbati
24 startups were supported during the first incubation phase, from July 2021 to June 2022, with ten prototypes developed, tested and being operationalised.

What results have been achieved so far? What do you imagine will happen next? 

In terms of support for cultural and creative startups, 24 startups were supported during the first incubation phase, from July 2021 to June 2022, with ten prototypes developed, tested and being operationalised. A community of Papricaires (as we call the beneficiaries of the PAPRICAI+ services and scheme) has been established, with about 60 members. For the second incubation phase, 30 startups are currently being supported as of September 2022. In the future, we envisage the PAPRICAI+ project as an experimental framework to promote the creation of a community of innovative creative entrepreneurship support structures, the dynamisation of the creative and digital entrepreneurial ecosystem, and the improvement of the structural, legal and institutional framework of the creative sector operating in the digital environment in Togo. 


You are also director of the Institut Korè des arts et métiers du Togo (IKAM Togo). Can you tell us about this institution? What has the ACP-UE Culture AWA programme contributed to its structuring? 

The Institut Korè des arts et métiers du Togo is one of the support mechanisms of the PAPRICAI incubator which provides support to incubated businesses. It is a subsidiary of the Institut Kôrè des Arts et Métiers du Mali which offers online and face-to-face training courses leading to a diploma in several specialities in the cultural, creative and digital sectors. IKAM Togo and its partners, such as the Institut Virtuel de l'Innovation Créative (IVIC), offer organisations of all sizes advice and support, as well as training, in order to help them to build their business in the long term and to better plan their professional projects. The AWA Programme allowed us to better structure IKAM Togo through a certification process that eventually led to the strengthening of our technical capacities. 


More generally, how do you perceive the challenges of cultural funding in Togo and in West Africa? You wrote a thesis on this subject, what were your recommendations on the topic? 

The financing of culture in Togo and West Africa remains a major challenge, not only for public authorities, but also for artists and professionals in the sector. The multiple economic, financial, health and climatic crises have resulted in a complex and difficult system of financing for culture in this regional area. While developed and emerging countries manage to adopt innovative and internal funding mechanisms for the cultural sector, Togo's cultural system, like those of most African countries, remains heavily dependent on external funding. In the framework of my thesis entitled "Endogenous mechanisms of financing culture in Togo: proposal for a strategy to strengthen the system of financing for the cultural sector", I recommended the exploration and experimentation of new systems of financing for the cultural sector in Togo and in Africa, notably through the promotion of internal mechanisms of financing and their optimised use by Togolese and African cultural actors. 

About the ACP-UE Culture AWA programme

Led by the Institut français and the Center Culturel Kôrè (CCK) of Ségou in Mali, with the financial contribution of the European Union and the support of the Secrétariat de l’Organisation des États ACP, the “ACP-EU Culture Programme: to the cultural and creative sectors – AWA” aims to support the structuring of cultural and creative industries (CCI) in West Africa. 

L'institut français, LAB