International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property director-general Mounir Bouchnaki said conservation of heritage sites would not be sustainable if African states continue to rely on donor funding.
Dr Bouchnaki, who was speaking at The Centre for Heritage Development in Africa (CDHA) 11th Africa 2009 for museum directors Mombasa, expressed fears that conservation activities in many African countries would grind to a halt if donors pulled their support.
He said: “The major challenge we face in Africa is lack of adequate funding to conserve heritage sites. Countries depend on external funding as they have not prioritised the protection of their heritage.
“It is sad that the authorities have not realised the importance of our cultural value, which plays a major part in spurring economic growth. Kenya, for instance, attracts many tourists due to its diverse culture.”
The conservationist said the continent was also facing a shortage of professionals who have the capacity to manage and save the national heritage.
This, he added, was because African governments have not earmarked adequate funds for the training of conservationists and instead had left the task to unqualified personnel.
“We need professionals who have the knowledge to manage and preserve our African cultural sites. As we talk now the continent is faced with a serious shortage of qualified conservationists,” Dr Bouchnaki said.
“There is need for African states to allocate funds for training of personnel so that they can effectively conserve heritage sites, which are in danger of being wiped out of the world map,” he added.
Dr Bouchnaki said the continent was lagging behind in terms of listing of world heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, adding that there were only 60 sites which have been listed by the organisation.
He wondered how Africa could have only 60 world heritage sites while Italy alone has 42, the largest number in the world.
Dr Bouchnaki, however, said through the Africa 2009 programme they are planning to forward more sites on the continent to Unesco for consideration.