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African Site Managers Network (ASMN)

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World Heritage sites in Africa and celebration days

The Africa continent has 54 States Parties of the World Heritage Convention and there are currently 139 properties inscribed on the World Heritage List.

Each year, UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee may inscribe new sites on the list or delist sites that no longer meet the criteria. Selection is based on ten criteria: six for cultural heritage (i–vi) and four for natural heritage (vii–x). Some sites, designated “mixed sites”, represent both cultural and natural heritage. In Africa, there are, as of this moment, 90 cultural, 43 natural, and 6 mixed sites. 

The table below depicts States Parties and a list of their World Heritage sites. The content of the table further indicates World Heritages sites cultural celebrations. 

It should be noted that natural sites are shown in blue italics and cultural sites in black. Sites listed under both criteria are denoted with an asterisk (*). Then, sites that are underlined and shown in red are included on the List of World Heritage in Danger.

Table 1: African World Heritage Celebrations dates

Furthermore, some other international celebration days on the calendar for African State Parties are worth noting, namely:


Case study: African World Heritage day celebration in Tanzania

The United Republic of Tanzania has a total of seven World Heritage sites. Each year, heritage site managers, as a team, agree and choose one site to host the celebration of the African World Heritage day. Then, through rotation, they make sure each site takes part and leads in the event celebration. For example, in 2020, the African World Heritage Day was celebrated by Ngorongoro Conservation area authority. This year, 2021, the celebration was hosted by the site of Stone town Zanzibar. Next year 2022, they already agreed and choose to celebrate that day in the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and the Ruins of Songo Mnara. Therefore, all Tanzanian World Heritage sites managers and their people will gather and celebrate African World Heritage Day in the Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and the Ruins of Songo Mnara.

In the preparation process of that event, heritage sites managers ensure the effective involvement of local communities. Then, they invite different institutions, as well as school children and college students to attend the event. In addition, they organize traditional dances, poems, and traditional songs on that day. 

It should be noted that the celebration usually lasts 3 days with specific activities:

  • Day 1: for the site visit. This allows guests to visit tourist attractions in a particular site (specifically, the site that has been chosen for the celebration).
  • Day 2: the guests are engaged in conducting conservation work on the site. This may include site cleaning, planting of trees, etc.

Day 3: the traditional drums, poems, traditional songs, essay completion, guests of honor speeches are put in place, as well as the closing of the heritage celebration day.