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Promoting cultural entrepreneurship in Cidade Velha, Ribeira Grande (Cabo Verde)

A wide-ranging programme aims to build capacity amongst local residents to understand the potentials offered by cultural heritage, by supporting and enhancing local cultural entrepreneurship. The initiative includes a wide range of actions, from capacity building and project development to financial and marketing support. It is developed by a consortium of partners including national and local government, institutes, NGOs and community associations.

About the city of Ribeira Grande

Ribeira Grande de Santiago is located in the southern end of the island of Santiago, 12 kilometres from Praia, in the archipelago of Cabo Verde. The town has a population of just under 1,300 inhabitants and a surface of approximately 200 hectares. It comprises the World Heritage site of Cidade Velha, Historic Centre of Ribeira Grande. The property was inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2009 under criteria (ii), (iii) and (vi). 

The town of Ribeira Grande, renamed Cidade Velha in the late 18th century, was the first European colonial outpost in the tropics. The islands of Cabo Verde were discovered between 1460 and 1462 by sailors at service of Portugal, within the context of the European maritime expansion of the late 15th century. Ribeira Grande became the first town founded in the archipelago, and was subsequently, in the 16th and 17th centuries, a key port of call for Portuguese colonisation and its administration. It was an exceptional centre in the routes for international maritime trade, included in the routes between Africa and the Cape, Brazil and the Caribbean, and as such provides an early image of transcontinental geopolitical visions. Its insular position, isolated but close to the coasts of Africa, made it an essential platform for the Atlantic trade of enslaved persons of modern times. A place of concentration of enslaved persons and the inhuman practices of the trade of enslaved persons, Ribeira Grande was also exceptional in terms of the intercultural encounters from which stemmed the first developed Creole society.

The valley of Ribeira Grande experimented with new forms of colonial agriculture on the boundary between the temperate and tropical climates. It became a platform for the acclimatisation and dissemination of plant species across the world. The town features some of the original street layout and impressive remains including two churches, a royal fortress and Pillory Square with its ornate 16th-century marble pillar.

© CRA-terre / Ensag

The World Heritage site counts with a number of challenges and opportunities, as reported by the site manager. On the one hand, the proximity to the capital and airport and the richness of cultural heritage create valuable opportunities for tourism-based development. On the other hand, it is necessary to carefully manage this increasing touristic pressure, and diversify the tourism offer, avoid mass tourism and control inflation. The cultural and tourism sectors are weakly connected, and local ONGs are not well organised. Finally, the city has seen an exodus of the local population, especially the youth, and schooling levels remain low.

Cidade Velha is part of the Japan-funded project “Post COVID-19 World Heritage Site Management: Integration of Conservation, Tourism and Local Livelihood Strategies at World Heritage Sites”. The objective for Cidade Velha is to empower the local communities, associations and SMEs through their involvement in the valorisation of the cultural heritage of the city. 

Cultural entrepreneurship in Ribeira Grande, Historic Centre of Cidade Velha 

In Ribeira Grande, a new programme aims to promote cultural entrepreneurship on-site, harness the potential of cultural heritage to contribute to local livelihoods and respond to the local economic and social conditions.

The programme aims to respond to the high unemployment rates amongst the local population, and the low level of awareness about the potential of cultural heritage to support local livelihoods. The strategic goals are:

  1. Support local entrepreneurship, enhancing cultural heritage’s potential for local livelihoods;
  2. Build capacity amongst local populations regarding the commercial opportunities linked to the cultural heritage resources of Cidade Velha;
  3. Reinforce and diversity the touristic offer;
  4. Identify entrepreneurial profiles, underlining the strong points and areas to be improved; and
  5. Identify and develop commercial and livelihood opportunities adapted to market needs.

Workshop participants © Cultural Heritage Institute of Cabo Verde / World Heritage site management office

In order to achieve these goals, the programme includes a wide range of actions, from capacity building and project development to financial and marketing support, such as creating a certified origin seal for products created on-site and organizing product expositions. The actions are developed and implemented by a consortium of partners, including:

The project started in July 2019 and is expected to continue until December 2021. It has an approximate cost of 150,000 escudos (USD 1,580 as of October 2021), funded through different projects as well as commercial activities linked to tourism. It learnt from previous creative entrepreneurship initiatives, including the 2014 UNESCO project “Cidade Velha: Creative Economies, World Heritage, Youth Entrepreneurship and Tourism”. 

The programme is mainly directed towards female heads of household, providing an alternative to pellet mining, an intensive economic activity that negatively impacts the well-being of the women who engage in it. In total, 17 women took place in the activities.

As a result, the site managers report that participants are able to identify key business opportunities in cultural tourism and understand the importance of the entrepreneur's profile in the success of the business.

Overall, the initiative “Cultural entrepreneurship” aims to promote sustainable social and economic development in the historic city of Cidade Velha, reducing poverty and improving local livelihoods and well-being. Overcoming challenges such as lack of organisation and financial resources, and resistance to new technologies, the programme aims to build capacity amongst the local populations to understand the potentials offered by cultural heritage, supporting and enhancing sustainable local economic development. 

Source: Mr Claudio Ramos, site manager of the World Heritage property "Ribeira Grande, Historic Centre of Cidade Velha”, 2021.

Contribution towards the implementation of the 2011 Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape

The project aims to contribute to the implementation of the Historic Urban Landscape approach by:

  • Creating multi-stakeholder partnerships for sustainable urban development
  • Developing a people-centred approach that takes community wellbeing as a key element of World Heritage site management.

Historic Urban Landscape Tools

Civic engagement tools Knowledge and Planning tools Financial tools

Contribution towards Sustainable Development

If fully implemented in accordance with the described plans, the initiative could contribute towards Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 1. End poverty in all its forms everywhere.

  • Target 1.2: the initiative aims to reduce the proportion of men, women and children living in poverty.

Goal 4. Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

  • Target 4.4: the initiative aims to increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, for employment and entrepreneurship 

Goal 8. Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all.

  • Target 8.3: the initiative aims to support productive activities, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and encourage the formalisation and growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises.
  • Target 8.9: the initiative aims to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.

Goal 11. Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable

  • Target 11.4: the initiative aims to strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage, by promoting sustainable local development and livelihoods. 

Note: the described potential impacts of the projects are only indicative and based on submitted and available information. UNESCO does not endorse the specific initiatives nor ratifies their positive impact.

To learn more

Mr Claudio Ramos, site manager of the World Heritage property "Ribeira Grande, Historic Centre of Cidade Velha”  Contact the site manager

© UNESCO, 2021. Project team: Jyoti Hosagrahar, Alba Zamarbide, Carlota Marijuán Rodríguez, Federico Rudari.
Cover image © Cultural Heritage Institute of Cabo Verde / World Heritage Site Management Office

Note: The cases shared in this platform address heritage protection practices in World Heritage sites and beyond. Items being showcased in this website do not entail any type of recognition or inclusion in the World Heritage list or any of its thematic programmes. The practices shared are not assessed in any way by the World Heritage Centre or presented here as model practices nor do they represent complete solutions to heritage management problems. The views expressed by experts and site managers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the World Heritage Centre. The practices and views shared here are included as a way to provide insights and expand the dialogue on heritage conservation with a view to further urban heritage management practice in general.