Africa is the world’s second-largest continent and home to a wide variety of natural and cultural heritage.
Generally, the African continent represents a stunning diversity of cultures and practices, from vestiges of civilizations past to centuries-old churches and rich cultural landscapes; heritage sites across Africa span all of human history.
In addition, the African continent is home to the largest reserves of precious metals in the world, while also being home of the world’s largest hot desert, the Sahara, which is 3.6 million square miles and comparable to China or the continental United States.
Proclaimed by the 38th session of the General Conference of UNESCO (November 2015), African World Heritage Day (5th May) is an opportunity for people around the world, and particularly Africans, to celebrate the continent’s unique cultural and natural heritage.
However, despite all these natural endowments, the continent still remains under-represented on the World Heritage list and over-represented on the World Heritage List in Danger due largely to some of the major threats facing her, such as climate change, uncontrolled development, disease, civil unrest, and poaching.
With all of these treats, Africa is at the risk of losing its universal value alongside its cultural and natural wonders. And because of the threats facing this diverse continent, it’s more important than ever to protect and preserve the African heritage.
In 2006, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) proclaimed May 5th as African World Heritage Day. This initiative was launched to support the conservation and protection of Africa’s natural and cultural heritage.
Additionally, this day was set aside to create and drive awareness of the immense potential of the African cultural and natural heritage.
The African World Heritage Day fosters the preservation and enhancement of the African heritage, alongside meeting the complex challenges that face Africa today such as climate change, the challenge of education, poor economy and rapid urbanization.
Since 2006, people all over the globe commemorate with Africans to celebrate this day in various ways such as organizing events and discussion fora and hosting various African cultural presentations.
Generally, the African World Heritage Day is celebrated by enlightening individuals, especially young people, on the importance of safeguarding the African heritage. These young people also get involved in various projects that place value on their cultural identity and natural environment. This way, the heritage of Africa is preserved and knowledge is passed on to the next generation.
The African World Heritage Day also serves as a time to raise awareness among the public about the urgent need to protect African heritage. Through it, women and youths get to understand their role in the conservation and management of cultural and natural heritage.
Through this international day, UNESCO aims to increase global awareness of African heritage, with a special focus on youth, and to mobilize enhanced cooperation for its safeguarding on the local, regional and global level.