By its recent ratification of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage, Mali has committed to protect, raise awareness on and further the investigation of its rich submerged heritage.
In joining this important legal instrument, Mali joins Senegal and other African countries in recognizing that African heritage is not only land-based but also includes thousands of shipwrecks and sunken sites. This legacy testifies to the vivid seafaring around Africa’s coasts, and includes important sunken structures in Africa’s inland waters including rivers and lakes. In Mali’s case, this encompasses the heritage sites in the Niger River and in several lakes.
Research and protection of underwater cultural heritage contribute to education about this unique heritage and can facilitate cultural tourism, thus promoting African history and identity while also supporting sustainable development. Unfortunately, many of Africa’s underwater cultural heritage sites are highly threatened by pillage and commercial exploitation, as well as by unregulated industrial activities. Thus underwater cultural heritage merits attention and protection, which implementation of the 2001 Convention can bring to bear.
Mali, the 67th State to ratify the 2001 Convention, joins other landlocked States such as Bolivia and Slovakia.