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Priority Africa - Underwater Cultural Heritage Programme

With its vast coastlines, expansive river systems and innumerable lakes, the African continent is home to an abundance of underwater cultural heritage. This heritage is only just beginning to reveal the extent of the indigenous nautical technology, regional contacts and far-reaching maritime trade routes that are an integral part of Africa’s rich history.

Underwater heritage has immense potential for sustainable development in Africa (as shown by a recent UNESCO study), scientific research and education. Sadly today many African underwater sites are threatened by treasure hunters looking to exploit public heritage for personal financial gain. 

UNESCO has thus created a Priority Africa - Underwater Cultural Heritage Programme.

16th century Portuguese Wreck, Mozambique © A. Rosenfeld

Ruins of the Alexandria Lighthouse, Egypt © E. Khalil

Umbria wreck, Sudan © E. Trainito / UNESCO

UNESCO’s work for Africa

Acknowledging the lack of trained personnel in many African nations, UNESCO partners with local authorities, universities, communities, NGOs and tourism agencies to provide African states with the necessary capacities to protect their submerged heritage.

The UNESCO 2001 Convention  is central to these efforts. To date it has been ratified by nine African nations, with several other countries being in the process of ratification. Besides providing a strong legal and operational framework for underwater heritage protection. States Parties to the 2001 Convention can also call on the experts of UNESCO’s Scientific and Technical Advisory Body for aid in specific questions relating to heritage protection.

Upcoming Events

  • Second Africa Regional Meeting on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage - Malindi, Kenya, 24-26 March 2015
  • Second Kemer Underwater Archaeology Course for African Nationals - Antalya, Turkey, 13-23 May 2015
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