Best Practices of the ACPCULTURES+ Programme: AfriCAP

Enhancement of African heritage resources

The AfriCAP2016 program was structured around three patrimonial projects in cities in three francophone African countries: Nikki in Benin, Grand-Bassam in Ivory Coast, and Télimélé in Guinea. Their implementation allowed for increased awareness of decision-makers and local populations on the various possible contributions of the patrimony to territorial development. These projects were also in support of trainings where decision makers and actors of the African cultural heritage gathered together to develop and exchange their knowledge on diverse, complimentary aspects of the management of the patrimony: cultural politics, systems of protection, conservations methods, valorisation strategies, touristic promotion, museum activities, ect.

The first capital of Ivory Coast and formerly a veritable economic hub of French trade from the Gulf of Guinea, the historic town of Grand-Bassam has been listed as a World Heritage Site since 2012. A remarkable example of a late 19th/early 20th century colonial town, today Grand-Bassam is threatened by the degradation of numerous abandoned and poorly maintained buildings and by certain modern adaptations that jeopardize its authenticity. As of now, the town of Grand-Bassam hopes to reinforce and disseminate protective aids for better conservation so that institutions and inhabitants can realize rehabilitation and construction projects compliant compatible with a city listed as a UNESECO World Heritage Site.

The commune of Nikki, with its royal city, is a major place of expression of Benin’s cultural pluralism which, each year for over seven centuries, has reached its height during the Gaani festival. Over 150,000 people, of which the majority come from neighbouring communes and bordering countries, participate in this event. Based on this keen interest for local culture, the commune of Nikki hopes to develop complementary activities to this festival to improve economic output, safeguard Batonu culture and facilitate the fulfilment and cohesion of populations.

Télimélé is rich in heritage and traditional craftsmanship, but the city’s living conditions remain rather concerning. Therefore the Télimélé project, centred on the creation of a community museum and a system to generate revenue as well as a cultural centre associated with a training centre dedicated to literacy and craftsmanship, aims to improve living conditions in these communities.

“We have initiated a long-term system of heritage management, via the implementation of an ecosystem of actors responsible for the question of heritage and its appreciation. The project has allowed for a wake-up call for authorities and the population on the state of degradation of certain buildings as well as parts of the landscape,” explains David Grandeau, the director of the project. “The synergy initiated during this project has allowed for a collective vigilance with regards to heritage, tourism and outreach in these three cities.”

Moreover, local administrations such as the Heritage House, city hall and the prefecture are working towards the preservation and promotion of historic sites, as well ensuring that the project’s results are sustainable. These endeavours have and will continue to facilitate the reduction of poor practices on these sites. The implication of the royal court in the management of heritage sites reinforces the participation of these groups and serves to guarantee their continued involvement.

The project has allowed for many discussions on the roles of different organizations, as well as the sharing of revenue made from showcases heritage sites. This project, made possible by the funds allocated from the brochures and guides, has contributed to demystifying the financial question. On this strong basis, for example, the town hall of Nikki, working with traditional authorities, has established participation fees for the Gaani Festival, allowing them to finance their organisation without depending exclusively on external support.

In Nikki, the project has allowed for the identification of numerous aspects that could attract tourism, as well as services useful to visitors who are accustomed to certain standards of tourism. Once potential heritage sites and services were identified, it was necessary to structure tourism offers around thematic tours. Each circuit was developed, along with training for guides, and specified the route, its length and access conditions.

In Télimelé, the project has financed the purchase of mills, used to husk rice and grind peanuts. The location of the mill has allowed for the creation of a long-term microcredit fund for villagers and the operation of a cultural bank. This truly innovative venture reduces the population’s financial dependency.

In this city, the project has allowed for the establishment of expositions presented in the village museum as well as educational activities. A collaboration with the Musée national et la Direction du Patrimoine will support the development of the initiative.

There were also unexpected benefits. UNESCO World Heritage sites (such as Grand-Bassam) are evaluated each year by the World Heritage Committee.  They assess the state of the conservation of the site, its management and its value. The project at Grand-Bassam largely responds to recommendations from the World Heritage Committee. In terms of results achieved by the city of Grand-Bassam (through AfriCAP2016), the World Heritage Committee recognized AfriCAP2016 for the sound management of Grand-Bassam in 2015 at Bonn.  

The technical requirements for outreach in Grand-Bassam involved a number of institutions concerned by the management of the city. These groups hoped to find the technical and financial means of obtaining such a guide. The historic towns in question were Yazd in Iran, Bakamo, Djenné and Timbuktu in Mali.

In 2015, the stakeholders in Nikki decided to instate the GANNI Fund to sustain the results of the AfriCAP2016 project via cultural initiatives for conservation and promotion of Baatonu and Boo. The Baatonu and Boo communities unanimously welcomed the project’s initiatives. Convinced by interest for the project, the city council decided to create a section for patrimonial tourism in its budget on a larger scale. The city council will reply on a contact person for the project.

The Ministry of Culture in Benin and in particular the Management of Cultural Patrimony, invited to the multi-stakeholder platform, and persuaded by the cultural importance of these locations, envisages a ranking of the cultural heritage of Gaani on the UNESCO Immaterial World Heritage List.

The mobilisation of actors on this projects, and the various meetings of the involved parties, have allowed for multiple parties involved in Nikki’s heritage sites to work together. This was decisive once the government in Benin, who brings key financial support to the traditional Gaani festival, decided to not support the 2016 festival. It was thus necessary for the involved parties to develop a way to finance this event. This financed was raised in collaboration with different actors, via the payment of admission fees (visitors, exhibitors). The festival’s 2016 edition was a huge success.

In Télimélé in Guinea, the project also had unexpected results. Although the cultural bank of Télimélé was created based on the existing models in Benin, Togo and Mali, it is unique in that it includes component allowing for the creation of fund that supports microcredit loans. Télimélé’s cultural bank is more long-term and less dependent on external finalizing than its precedents. This model was greatly appreciated by the participants who supported its growth.

Guinea’s Ministry of Culture is particularly attached to the cultural bank, and is actively engaged in its development.


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October 12, 2017
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