Ile Goree: The view of Gorée Island when arriving from Dakar ©S.M. Kandji

The Culture Sector of UNESCO Dakar focuses on the protecting of heritage and supporting the creative sector.

Activities range from promoting World Heritage sites, safeguarding the rich intangible cultural heritage of West Africa and strengthening cultural industries.

Protecting heritage & promoting creativity

UNESCO is providing financial and technical support to countries in West Africa in order to ensure that their World Heritage sites are promoted and protected for future generations. Specifically, UNESCO Dakar is working to raise awareness about the 18 World Heritage sites located in the seven countries covered by the Office.

Awareness-raising on heritage protection is critical in Mali where we are endorsing and promoting a passport of Malian heritage. In addition, for the first time in a context of crisis management, the peace keeping mission of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is being trained to understand cultural heritage protection issues.

Safeguarding intangible cultural heritage

Programmes are in development throughout the region in a first comprehensive effort to safeguard the rich intangible cultural heritage of West Africa. We carry out needs assessment in the Gambia, build capacities to carry out community-based inventories in Cabo Verde and Niger, and provide technical assistance in Burkina Faso and Mali.

Senegal has recently adopted safeguarding plans for traditional music as part of the traditional music inventory carried out with UNESCO’s assistance, and several countries saw elements of their intangible cultural heritage newly inscribed on the Representative List, including the ‘Coming forth of the masks and puppets in Markala’ (Mali), the practices and expressions of joking relationships in Niger, and ‘Xooy’ divination ceremony of the Serer of Senegal.

The fight against illicit trafficking

Protecting heritage in West Africa, especially the Sahel, faces numerous threats of illicit trafficking of cultural property. The Dakar Office works to support capacity building for the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property by raising awareness, working with our partners to return stolen objects, and fighting fraudulent transactions over the internet. 

Fostering the creative sector

Activities focus on building institutional capacity, providing technical assistance and policy advice, as well as improving professional and expert networks. As part of the follow-up of the MDG-F programme “Promoting cultural industries and initiatives in Senegal” UNESCO is supporting the development of a new generation of interpretation centres including the one in Bandafassi (Bassari country), which was officially inaugurated by President Macky Sall in 2014.

In Niger, UNESCO works with the Government and the Organisation internationale de la francophonie (OIF) in a joint program to strengthen cultural industries. Activities have focused on training the Centre national de cinématographie and leadership development within the Agency for the Promotion of Cultural Enterprises and Industries. In Burkina Faso, where 2,1% of the active population works in culture, the results of the new UNESCO Culture for Development Indicators provide innovative policy support and establish a baseline for areas of growth and opportunity.

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