African World Heritage Day celebrated across Africa

UNESCO Offices in Africa celebrated African World Heritage Day on May 5, 2021 with a series of activities rooted in the African Union’s 2021 theme “Arts, Culture and Heritage” and aimed to promote and protect the rich cultural and natural heritage on the continent.

For six years, people all over the world have marked May 5 as African World Heritage Day.  Proclaimed in November 2015 by the 38th session of the General Conference of UNESCO, African World Heritage Day is an opportunity to celebrate the continent’s unique cultural and natural heritage. While Africa is underrepresented on the World Heritage List, UNESCO is stepping up its efforts not only to increase the representativeness of African sites on the World Heritage List but also to raise awareness, promote and protect Africa’s World Heritage to ensure its safeguarding and transmission to future generations.

This celebration, at the heart of the activities of the African Union’s 2021 theme: “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers to build the Africa we want” was an opportunity to highlight the role and contribution of culture to the economy and sustainable development. Strengthening the sense of belonging of communities through culture and history to drive and support the development of the continent is one of the objectives of this thematic year.

To celebrate African World Heritage Day, UNESCO’s Offices in Africa, the World Heritage Centre (WHC) and the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF) organized a series of events anchored in the theme of the AU year. The webinar on “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want” organized by the WHC brought together young people, policy makers, site managers and different heritage actors to highlight the roles, challenges and opportunities of the different UNESCO Conventions on Culture, while reflecting on possible synergies and potential measures to put culture at the service of development.

In addition, the UNESCO Nairobi Office launched a call for proposals for young people in East Africa (Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) to enhance youth engagement in the protection and promotion of cultural heritage.

May 5 also marked the inauguration of the Pan-African World Heritage Museum in Ghana. The UNESCO Accra Office participated in this event and highlighted the richness and diversity of  heritage shared by the African populations of the continent and the diaspora. The museum will share with the world the history of Africa’s heroes and civilizations.


The Regional Office in Dakar and Cheick Anta Diop University (UCAD) celebrated African World Heritage Day with an expert round table entitled “Contribution of UCAD in the inscription and management process of the seven sites in Senegal inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List” on 22 May in Dakar. In addition to this round table, a photo exhibition of 40 panels highlighting the exceptional value of the seven World Heritage sites in Senegal was presented. This exhibition, developed by the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, aims to promote Senegalese heritage and is already available online at HERE.

The 2021 edition of the African World Heritage Youth Forum, held online under the theme “Youth, Entrepreneurship and Heritage Sustainability: Building the Africa We Want” and organised by the AWHFin May 2021 aimed, among other things, to empower young Africans and equip them with innovative and creative entrepreneurial skills in the heritage field.

Engaging young people, communities, heritage experts and national authorities in the safeguarding, promotion and protection of the continent’s cultural and natural heritage was the motif of this day, launching the Africa celebrations that will continue throughout the month of May.

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