African World Heritage Day 2022: Youth and digital technologies for the promotion and safeguarding of African Heritage
African World Heritage Day is celebrated annually on the 5th of May to remember and acknowledge the importance of promoting and safeguarding the UNESCO World Heritage in Africa for the benefit of present and future generations. To celebrate the 7th edition of African World Heritage Day, the UNESCO World Heritage Centre (WHC), in collaboration with the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), hosted a webinar under the theme for 2022: "Youth and digital technologies for the promotion and safeguarding of African Heritage".
“Young people recognise that heritage does not only belong to the past but is also part of their identity, favouring intercultural understanding, respect for diversity and the creation of an ecosystem for cultural innovation. It becomes important for us as heritage actors to be able to connect and inspire young Africans on the prospects offered by the development of new technologies coupled with their rich heritage, vital elements for their safeguarding from the threats that could arise,” said Lazare Eloundou Assomo, Director of UNESCO World Heritage.
Souleymane Jules Diop, Ambassador Permanent Delegate of Senegal to UNESCO and Chairperson of the Africa group of the World Heritage Committee, intervened, emphasizing the role digitalization and technological novelties play in the maintenance of our heritage. Recalling the words from the opening remarks, H.E noted some of the challenges facing African heritage sites and how the new and revolutionary digital technologies could potentially contribute to effectively safeguarding heritage and engaging communities.
Albino Jopela, head of programmes of the AWHF stressed the youth’s contribution to innovation and technological creativity and how these lead to the global societal goals. Mr Jopela also indicated that the youth is a key public and driving force of the AWHF’s activities by engaging them in projects focusing on heritage for sustainable development.
Following the opening remarks, some experts on heritage and digital technology were invited as panellists to explore the challenges and opportunities that arise from digitisation in Africa in a discussion moderated by Fatma Twahir, Site Manager of the World Heritage Site of Fort Jesus, Mombasa in Kenya. Bastien Varoutsikos and Mohamed Alhassane from ICONEM delivered a presentation on the use of emergent technology for documentation, monitoring and promotion of heritage, while Abubakar Diwani Kakari from the State University of Zanzibar described the many possibilities composing the digitization and management of heritage sites. Mallé Gueye explained how drones and automated devices had been used in heritage conservation, most specifically in Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in Senegal. Besides, The socioeconomic component of the digitisation of heritage, presentations by Primož Kovačič, from Spatial Collective and Richard Hayes, from Africa Business Group discussed the opportunities arising from the digitisation of cultural heritage and smart tourism.
Their interventions served as a starting point for an in-depth and open discussion, moderated by Feven Tewolde Eqbamicael, Project Manager Lalibela Rock-Hewn Churches.
The webinar yielded an interactive conversation on the evolution of safeguarding practices over the past fifty years and what we can envisage in the next 50, with new technologies as valuable and rapid tools for safeguarding and developing African heritage.