Espéra G. Donouvossi

  • University of Cape CoastPhD Scholarship Holder

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Exploring Participatory Approach in Policy Formulation: Towards a coherent cultural heritage policy for the historic city of Abomey, in Benin.

The mechanism in policy formulation and policy changes in the Republic of Benin remains the work of a small group of experts and government officials rather than a concrete result of social dialogue, participatory action and the protection of the access to cultural participation. According to Macdonald and Cheong (2014), the heritage sector often overlooks its key stakeholders, who are (i) emotionally attached to the historic fabric, (ii) self-motivated to enact and implement conservation plans, and (iii) actively support sustainability in the management of cultural heritage. The misunderstanding of stakeholders in the policy formulation is the root-cause of major challenges that faces the cultural heritage policy in Benin.

These challenges include but not limited to:

  • Incoherent and inappropriate cultural policy instruments
  • Inadequate policy models
  • Ineffective and inoperative policy strategies

The above challenges could be avoided through effective communication in decision-making among a large group of stakeholders with various values and interests in heritage conservation and promotion in Benin.

The doctoral research project aims to conduct an evidence-based assessment of current cultural heritage policy and strategies in Benin in order to provide an innovative, structural and participatory policy design approach to support sustainable systems of governance for the preservation and the promotion of cultural heritage in the historic city of Abomey. The research project takes its roots from cultural studies in humanities while exploring new concepts and techniques in public policies development and implementation.

Through an Interpretive approach to evidence-based policy development, the research project will extensively conduct a strategic analysis of various cultural policies documents Benin. This will help to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of those policies. We will mainly do a comparative analysis of the design process of the identified cultural policies in order to interpret the different outputs.

The main research question is: Can stakeholders’ participation in policy formulation be a driver for a more effective and coherent cultural policy in Benin?

The research methodologies will be both qualitative and quantitative. It will adopt an interpretative applied social research methodology using the process of development public policy analysis with sociological approaches as well as strategic management. This will include among others desk research, interviews and focus group discussions.

Concretely, the outcomes will be presented in three parts:

The first part will contain an extensive history and stories related to past cultural policies designed in Benin. The thesis will extensively and exhaustively document the history of the cultural policies in Benin.

The second part will include a performance review of Benin cultural heritage strategies since its independence in 1960 till 2020 outlining the concrete positive and negative impact of its implementation.

The third part will present a policy framework with strategic objectives and measures in order to adopt structural, operational and functional changes for recommendable policy changes through participatory and stakeholder-based policy design approach. A specific policy framework will be proposed to contribute to a sustainable protection and promotion of cultural heritage in Abomey.



Espéra G. Donouvossi holds a Master’s degree from the Department of Science of Language and Communication at University of Abomey-Calavi in Benin. Between 2007 and 2014 he lived and worked in South Africa before joining the Unesco Chair in Cultural Policy and Management at University of Arts, Belgrade in Serbia. In 2018 he completed a joint Master study program in Cultural Projects and Institutions Management in cooperation with University of Lumière, Lyon 2 in France. His Master thesis researched and recommended advocacy and management strategies for the restitution of Benin’s cultural heritage from French museums.
Currently, Espera is a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana and the University of Hildesheim in Germany where he is exploring structural and participatory policy design to support sustainable systems of governance for Benin cultural heritage. With over 10 years of experience working in the African cultural sector, he has been deeply involved in establishing, developing and coordinating several cultural organizations and programmes in a fulltime capacity in mainly African Countries. He is driven by a great passion for the African cultural and creative industries and his personal goal is to become an expert in cultural policy issues.