African heritage dazzles at Unesco event


The first in-person meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in four years has seen African heritage celebrate a notable success.

Five new sites located across Sub-Saharan Africa were inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List and two were extended following a rigorous evaluation process witnessed by over 3,000 international attendees who gathered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia for the extended 45th session of the World Heritage Committee.

This celebration of cultural and natural heritage showcases the largest number of inscriptions from Africa in a single World Heritage Committee session since 1982, matched by 2006. From some of the most ecologically significant rainforests in the world in Nyungwe, Rwanda, to the alpine moorlands of the Bale Mountains in Ethiopia – the rich history and biodiversity of the continent is on full display.

Sub-Saharan Africa now has 112 sites on the World Heritage List, out of a total of 1,199.

New technologies, such as the Saudi-funded Unesco Dive Into Heritage platform, can support documentation and improve access to heritage data, but they also require significant investment and capacity building. Governments should partner with bodies such as Unesco in initiatives such as the Dive Into Heritage to promote culture and heritage protection in Africa.

Saudi Arabia has expanded its partnership with Unesco and over $10 million will be provided across three years in the framework of the Fund-in-Trust Agreement signed in January 2020 between Unesco and the Ministry of Culture of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In Africa, four of these projects align with Unesco’s Priority Africa vision, aimed at fostering peace and sustainable development across the continent through culture, education and science. These projects involve creating sustainable heritage ecosystems for economic development, protecting intangible cultural heritage, and supporting measures against illicit trafficking of cultural property.