By Shu’eib Hassen
CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AA) – An inter-governmental organization dedicated to supporting the effective conservation and protection of Africa’s natural and cultural heritage celebrated its 10th anniversary Friday at the historic Robben Island Museum in Cape Town, South Africa.
The African World Heritage Fund’s commemoration also served as the opening for the African World Heritage Regional Youth Forum. The forum will have 28 participants from 24 African countries.
“This is the first youth program for English-speaking African countries,” UNESCO World Heritage Centre’s Project Officer Carmela Quin told Anadolu Agency. “In 2017 we will be running the program for French-speaking countries.”
The 28 youths will address sustainability, preservation, and development issues on African heritage sites. The program will culminate on May 5 in Johannesburg at the Cradle of Humankind in Johannesburg where they will hand over their recommendations to UNESCO.
The 24 African countries participating in the youth forum are Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, The Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Malawi, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Ghanaian participant Kwesi Koomson said, “It is an honor to be chosen and we’ll do our best to evaluate innovative solutions to ensure that our history can withstand the test of time.”
Africa currently has 129 out of 1,031 world heritage sites that have been recognized for their natural or cultural importance.
The African World Heritage Fund was launched in 2006 by the African Members States of UNESCO and the African Union. The aim was to ensure that Africa implements the 1972 World Heritage Convention.
African World Heritage Fund’s Director Dr. Webber Ndoro announced two major growing concerns. The first is the severe damage to heritage sites by extremists, like in Mali. The second is insufficient funds to fill posts for preserving history, such as tour guides.
“As Africans, our culture will be preserved. Our culture will be promoted. Our culture will not be forgotten. We will preserve our legacy,” said Cameroonian participant Benis Nchangche.