Engaging and Empowering African Youth to Sustain Heritage

Youth.Heritage.Africa - Engaging and Empowering African Youth to Sustain Heritage

Aspiration 5 of the Agenda 2063 of the Africa We Want calls for an Africa with a strong cultural identity, and common heritage values and ethics. Achieving this aspiration will be possible if we engage communities, especially youth, in the conservation and promotion of their heritage.

The continent is home to the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, with young people between the ages of 14 and 35 constituting over 40% of the population. By 2030, this will have increased to 42% or 750 million young people on the continent. This consideration is what has led ICCROM and its partners to initiate the Youth.Heritage.Africa programme. We seek to connect the younger generation and youth organizations with strategies and initiatives that will make Africa’s heritage a source of economic and social opportunity for their benefit.

ICCROM has a wealth of experience in the African context, having worked extensively with both professionals and institutions to build capacities. This began with the implementation of two long-term programmes: PREMA for preventive conservation in African museums, from 1986 to 2000; and AFRICA 2009, which focused on improving the management of immovable heritage from 1998 to 2009. ICCROM has since continued to partner with institutions to develop innovative and participative educational projects on cutting edge themes such as the Conservation of Sound and Image, Emergency Heritage Assistance in Times of Crisis, and People-Centered Approaches to Conservation. 

Youth.Heritage.Africa - Engaging and Empowering African Youth to Sustain Heritage

Youth.Heritage.Africa will tap into these previous experiences and the existing body of knowledge to bring fresh innovation and new ways of engaging and caring for heritage, while at the same time fostering intergenerational exchange. Engaging in this new Africa programme with partners is a timely and exciting challenge for ICCROM, one that will bring new perspectives for heritage conservation throughout the world. The aims are to:

  • Engage Africa’s youth in the practice of their heritage – its conservation, management promotion and resilience.
  • Mainstream sustainable entrepreneurship opportunities for Africa’s youth within the heritage sector.
  • Engage and strengthen Africa’s heritage institutions for the sustainable and innovative use of heritage for education, development, peace and security.

The programme duration is ten years, starting from 2020 with a three-year pilot phase. By the end of 2022, we expect: 

  • 1500 young people (aged 14-35) will be involved in the programme (trained, professionally inserted or sensitized)
  • 80 future leaders for heritage sites and institutions will be shaped
  • 50 creative enterprises will be developed by youth around heritage
  • 20 new successful institutional projects will be implemented (nominations to the World Heritage List, exhibitions, conservation, intergenerational exchanges, etc.)
  • 10 professional internships at ICCROM and African heritage organizations for young professionals will be carried out
  • At least six co-creation spaces will be established within African heritage places or institutions (“hubs”)
  • At least six successful examples of African heritage assets will be better documented, protected, used and promoted through the involvement of youth and local communities
  • New local, continental and international heritage networks will be formed

Youth.Heritage.Africa - Engaging and Empowering African Youth to Sustain Heritage

Amidst the health crisis in 2020, the programme has made some remarkable progress by hosting both virtual and physical activities in Benin, Kenya and South Africa. Together with the École du Patrimoine Africain (EPA) and the African World Heritage Fund (AWHF), we trained 200 young people on subjects including World Heritage management, and the development of advanced nomination dossiers for World Heritage sites. Additionally, we trained 113 heritage employees and community members on Climate Action and Disaster Risk Management at coastal heritage sites in Kenya.  

In preparing for 2021 activities, a course on Museum Collections Conservation and Management is being designed and planned, which will consist of virtual and in-person components for young people when and where COVID-19 restrictions permit.

Discussions are ongoing with heritage institutions and partners from Benin, Egypt, Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa to establish and create physical spaces for young people to experience and enjoy cultural heritage. The main mission of these creative spaces called “Heritage Hubs”, is to encourage young people to identify their cultural heritage and give it value in their daily lives by fostering research, innovation, entrepreneurship, awareness, advocacy, and peer action. 

Heritage is about now, about what is happening today. It's time to unlock its potential.

For more information, please contact Espéra Donouvossi, the programme manager at ed@iccrom.org.