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Message from Ms Audrey Azoulay Director-General of UNESCO for African World Heritage Day 5 May 2024

Friday, 3 May 2024 at 14:00
access_time 2 min read
Fasil Ghebbi, Gondar Region (Ethiopia) © Ko Hon Chiu Vincent

Every year, on 5 May, we celebrate African World Heritage Day to honour the natural wonders and cultural legacies of Africa.

From Mbanza Kongo, capital of the former Kingdom of Kongo in Angola, to the fortress of Fasil Ghebbi in the Gondar Region of Ethiopia, cultural sites across Africa bear witness to the continent’s multifaceted history, like vibrant strands woven into the tapestry of human civilization.

The story told by these sites also includes darker pages, like those commemorated at Robben Island in South Africa, or the Memorial Sites of the Rwandan Genocide: Nyamata, Murambi, Gisozi and Bisesero. They are places where we strive to preserve memory and pass it on to future generations, to prevent these painful episodes from ever being repeated. 

Africa’s heritage is not only cultural – it is also natural, as can be seen at such stunning sites as the Mosi-oa-Tunya in Zambia and Zimbabwe, Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary in Senegal, which offer a glimpse of Africa’s beautiful landscapes and biological diversity.

These African sites are of universal significance, and essential to humanity as a whole. That is why UNESCO works every day with the countries concerned to better preserve them, while also protecting the rights of local communities, including Indigenous peoples. This is a fundamental principle for the management of all World Heritage sites.

Moreover, to ensure that the World Heritage List is truly representative of the world’s richness and diversity, UNESCO is also assisting its African Member States to increase the number of inscribed sites on the continent.

Much remains to be done – but we are extremely proud of the recent inscription of six new sites on the World Heritage List in 2023, bringing the number in the Africa region to over 100.

In the coming months, in line with UNESCO's Global Priority Africa and the African Union’s Agenda 2063, we will continue our efforts to enhance the capacities of African countries in developing nomination files for possible inscriptions, notably for the 11 countries with no sites on the World Heritage List.

To do this, we are training more African heritage professionals and promoting the establishment of heritage education centres across Africa to enhance the conservation, management and promotion of African heritage.

UNESCO also supports the conservation of vulnerable sites, exemplified by the removal of the Tombs of the Buganda Kings at Kasubi in Uganda from the List of World Heritage in Danger after 13 years of collective efforts. This case is an inspiration – and welcome progress towards our target of removing half of the African sites currently on the Danger List by 2029.

On this day and every day, UNESCO is committed to contributing to the “African cultural renaissance” proclaimed by the African Union’s Agenda 2063, by protecting and promoting all forms of African heritage. Together, we can ensure that Africa’s extraordinary legacy continues to inspire, enrich, and unite us all.

Programme Join the celebration Concept note

Friday, 3 May 2024 at 14:00
access_time 2 min read
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Africa Arab States