From 27 to 31 March 2023, more than 40 participants from 13 countries gathered in Mombasa to discuss practical and strategic ways to make Africa’s heritage an effective source of economic and social opportunities for youth. The Heritage Hubs Connect Forum has been organized in the framework of ICCROM’s Youth.Heritage.Africa (YHA) programme. 

Heritage Hubs Connect Forum Photo credit: ICCROM-NMK-SWAHILIPOT 

The Heritage Hubs Connect Forum provided an opportunity to consolidate what has already been achieved and further advance the implementation of the Heritage Hubs component of YHA. It gathered and encouraged critical engagement among the programme’s main actors and identified avenues for future collaboration with potential partners.  

This unique event brought together heritage experts, entrepreneurs, creatives, policymakers, universities and European institutions that will shape the development of our Heritage Hubs. It created platforms to share experiences and opportunities and define avenues of thematic collaboration for the initiative’s sustainable growth. Most of all, the presentations and group discussions provided essential guidance for our team as we update the YHA strategic master plan 2022-2026, with a focus on current and prospective Heritage Hubs. 

The Forum focused on four thematic areas: 

Research and training 

Heritage Hubs Connect Forum Espera Espéra Donouvossi, Project Manager, Youth.Heritage.Africa - Photo credit: ICCROM-NMK-SWAHILIPOT 

Heritage Hubs are meant to foster research and training around culture, heritage and cross-cutting issues. 

Specifically for research, Heritage Hubs can produce usable knowledge and provide a platform to develop demand-driven research that meets Africa’s needs. We will develop an innovative approach that combines collaboration and cocreation of knowledge with youth and the community. Communities will be part of the research results validation, and finding creative ways to disseminate knowledge within and beyond the community will be strongly encouraged.  

Heritage Hubs will create courses and programmes that mainstream entrepreneurship, technology, outreach and advocacy. Training will be developed based on a needs-assessment mapping exercise to better equip young Africans.  Field schools are also going to be created to allow learning through concrete actions and direct communities.  

Heritage and technology 

Heritage Hubs will be important spaces to uplift heritage through the use of technology, especially in the fields of heritage documentation (artificial intelligence, photogrammetry, GIS mapping, 3D laser scanning, etc.); heritage management (techniques to conserve, internet of things, machine learning algorithm); and heritage interpretation (an informal educational approach to protected areas, monuments, museums and historically important places).  

Establishing Hubs with sufficient and strong technology infrastructure will be critical to achieving this goal. Concrete actions will be undertaken, such as: outsourcing online tasks to young people, promoting digital inclusivity and accessibility to empower young people, igniting an interest in STEAM, and integrating technology into school curricula. 

Innovation and entrepreneurship 

Heritage Hubs will play a key role in innovation and entrepreneurship by, among others, providing training and certification, tech resources to heritage innovators and entrepreneurs, and facilitation of exchange programmes.  

To achieve this goal, Heritage Hubs must work as effective cultural heritage entrepreneurial incubators that will contribute to community awareness through a wide variety of training programmes. It will also offer mentorship and information sessions on opportunities to facilitate access to financial incentives and marketing.  

Outreach and advocacy 

Heritage Hubs should play an active role in outreach and advocacy. They will serve as a platform to reflect and develop outreach campaigns that include advocacy with an entrepreneurial focus. This will be developed by following specific steps to create materials such as: identifying target audiences, crafting key messaging, creating action plans and activities, and defining modes of transmission (mainstream media, social media, festivals and performances, hackathons and competitions, workshops, virtual reality, animation, etc.) 

Based on the presentations and discussions of the groups and in the plenary sessions, each Heritage Hub will be able to benefit from the strategic activities and projects proposed to assess and update their initial proposals. Egypt and Zimbabwe will join Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa in developing and establishing Hubs in their countries and institutions.  

Heritage Hubs Connect Forum Joe King Joseph King, Senior Director - Photo credit: ICCROM-NMK-SWAHILIPOT 

Mr Joseph King, ICCROM Senior Director, reminded the audience that the “African continent has always been of importance to ICCROM. The Youth.Heritage.Africa programme and its Heritage Hubs are a promising and innovative approach that are already impacting Africa and its youth.”  

Youth.Heritage.Africa. is an ICCROM programme that aims to create economic value for African youth by investing in social and human capital, fostering creativity in the heritage sector and strengthening cultural identity, all in accordance with the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030 and the aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063.