In 2009, a programme called “Heritage and Development” was initiated under the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement to respond to the requests expressed during the special sessions of the Africities Summits on heritage and local development in Africa. The project aimed to strengthen the capacities of West African local governments.
It was initiated by the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement, which provided seed funding and project design assistance for the purposes of obtaining funding from the European Union. Finally led by the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF), and financed by the European Union, it was implemented in partnership with the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement and the World Heritage Centre which provided technical support. The project targeted five countries: Senegal, Benin, Mauritania, Cabo Verde and Mali. As part of the Steering Committee and the education team, the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement took part in the training sessions and was involved in capitalisation work for the project.
These sessions raised participants’ awareness of the value of their heritage and encouraged them to design and pursue cultural development projects in their local areas. Around 100 projects were developed in the five beneficiary countries in a wide range of fields including immovable heritage, itineraries and routes, museums, cultural landscapes, sacred places and spaces and intangible heritage. The projects underlined the maturity of the local communities’ thinking and the diverse nature of their approaches to heritage. Some of the projects were subsequently submitted for third-party funding (in particular by the European Union), which guaranteed continuation in future.
Along with these national technical sessions, a regional exchange seminar was organised in Grand Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, from 7 to 9 October 2011 on the theme of cooperation between the State, local governments and traditional custodians in the management of heritage. Hosted by the community of Grand Bassam, it was the second regional seminar of the project following the Cabo Verde seminar in April 2011. It enabled dialogue between heritage directors and mayors, encouraging cooperation between them.
As a conclusion of the project, a handbook entitled “Patrimoine culturel et enjeux territoriaux en Afrique francophone” (cultural heritage and local issues in Francophone Africa) was published in December 2012, by the AIMF and in close collaboration with the France-UNESCO Cooperation Agreement and the World heritage Centre. Designed as a decision-making tool, it helps to support the heritage policies adopted by African local governments, in a context where those operating at local level are playing a greater role. This book, which is primarily aimed at elected representatives and technical staff working in local government, is also relevant to heritage professionals.