07.07.2014 - UNESCO Office in Dakar

Reconciling urban development and historic heritage in Africa

The Marché Kermel in Dakar, Senegal, is a beautiful Victorian style open air building that was recently renovated ©UNESCO/G. Alonso

Think about this for a moment: In 15 years, more than half of all Africans will live in cities. In a little more than 10 years, Africa's 12 largest cities will have more than 3 million people. Over the next two years, African cities will have to cater for 300 million new inhabitants.

African cities are truly faced with huge population growth which puts considerable strain on the urban environment and infrastructure...and the historic heritage. It's mainly about protecting tangible heritage as addressed by the World Heritage Convention, but also intangible heritage such as traditions or ways of living is of concern.

"The challenge of sustainable development will be won or lost in cities, especially in Africa, which will be the most urbanized continent in 2050," says Ann-Therese Ndong Jatta, Director of UNESCO's Regional Office for the Sahel. "We need to find ways to ensure that urban development and historical heritage go hand in hand because for billions of people, cities convey an important part of their heritage," she adds.

Adapting to local contexts

This link between urban development and heritage is the theme of a conference organized from 7-9 July 2014 in Dakar, Senegal. More than 60 people from French-speaking Africa, Europe and Asia and with different backgrounds will join the conference. There will be representatives of international organizations and associations, mayors, researchers, teachers, historians, architects, economists, sociologists, geographers etc. Countries present include Cambodia, Egypt, France, Laos, Morocco, Mali and Senegal.

The conference is jointly organized, in the framework of the XV Summit of the francophonie, by the Delegation Wallonie Bruxelles and the Ministry of Culture and Heritage of Senegal partnership with the International Association of Francophone Mayors (IAFM), the Organisation International de la Francophonie, UNESCO Dakar as well as other technical partners.

The conference is part of a process to adapt efficient policies to reconcile the explosive growth of African cities with the preservation of historic urban heritage. It will table the Recommendation on the Historic Urban Landscape, adopted by UNESCO in 2011. One key objective of the conference is to strengthen these recommendations and adapt them to regional and local contexts by redefining strategies, frameworks and mechanisms for resource mobilization. 

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