African heritage underfunded

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AllAfrica has reported that underfunding and shortage of professionals are the main hurdles facing conservation of world heritage sites in sub-Saharan Africa. Inadequate funding leads to reliance on external donors to implement projects such as conservation of heritage on the continent.

The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property director general, Mounir Bouchnaki, said conservation of heritage sites will not be sustainable if African states continue relying on donor funds. "The major challenge we face is lack of adequate funds to conserving heritage sites. Many countries depend on external donors as their governments have not prioritised the protection of national heritage.

"It is sad that the authorities have not realised the importance of our cultures, which play a major part in spurring economic growth. Kenya, for instance, attracts many tourists due to its diverse cultures."

Dr Bouchnaki said the continent has a shortage of professionals who could manage and conserve national heritage.

This, he added, was because African governments have not earmarked adequate funds to train conservationists. Instead, they have left the task to unqualified personnel.

"We need people with the knowledge to manage and preserve our cultural sites... some of which are in danger of being wiped off the map," he said.

The director general said the continent lags behind in listing its heritage sites with Unesco, adding that only 60 of its sites are on the UN organisation's roll.

By comparison, Italy has 42 sites -- the largest number by a single country in the world.

Dr Bouchnaki, however, said the Africa 2009 group will forward more sites in the continent to Unesco for consideration. Through the programme, he said, 300 professionals have been trained on maintenance and conservation, management planning, interpretation and promotion. He was speaking at Sarova Whitesands Beach Resort in Mombasa during an Africa 2009 programme directors' seminar.

Participants were drawn from 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and representatives from the World Heritage Centre, Sweden and Norway. Representatives of the 30 sub-Saharan countries agreed to work together on personnel training, management and conservation of the continent's heritage sites.