UNESCO prepares a capacity building strategy for the protection of underwater cultural heritage in the Africa region

Anchor of the Nossa Senhora do Monte do Carmo, Salary Bay, Tulear (Madagascar) © Arturo REY DA SILVA / UNESCO.

The UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa has launched a desk study and mapping on the current status of training and research on Underwater Cultural Heritage in Africa, which will provide the basis for a capacity building strategy on underwater cultural heritage in the Africa region in order to guide further support in the region.

The strategy is part of the UNESCO project “Building Capacity and Raising Awareness for Underwater Cultural Heritage Research in Africa,” funded by the  Japan Funds-in-Trust to UNESCO.

The Underwater Cultural Heritage in Africa is under serious threat from treasure hunters, uncontrolled industrial development and lack of supervision. This project aims to contribute to raising awareness of the importance of safeguarding Africa’s vulnerable underwater heritage, and encourage UNESCO Member States to put in place sound policies for researching, managing and promoting underwater cultural heritage in the Africa region.

The desk study and mapping exercise is being carried out within the framework of the 2001 Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage; the UNESCO Priority Africa Flagship Programme ‘Harnessing the power of culture for sustainable development and peace in a context of regional integration’; and in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Africa Union’s Vision 2063.

The study, which is being led by underwater archaeologist and UNESCO expert, Mr. Arturo Rey da Silva, will provide a basis for the preparation of a capacity building strategy for the Underwater Cultural Heritage development related to the management and protection of the underwater cultural heritage undertaken in the African region. A needs and capacities assessment will identify the main areas for training and educational activities required to achieve the observation of the international standards for Underwater Cultural Heritage in conformity with the UNESCO Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention and its guidelines.

Although the initial training activities for this UNESCO project have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNESCO is planning to carry them out in 2021 along with various awareness raising activities. The Government of Kenya shall host two training workshops in Mombasa for participants from: Angola, Benin, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Tanzania.

All of the beneficiary countries in this regional initiative recognize the urgency of these training workshops and they have been actively engaged in their preparation. We are grateful to the Government of Japan for supporting this critical capacity building project for the protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage in Africa.
Ms. Ann Therese Ndong-Jatta, Director and Representative, UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Afric

For more information on the UNESCO Underwater Cultural Heritage Convention, please see: