For the amount of cultural, scientific and historic sites in Africa, it’s a continent underrepresented on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This year’s intake does little to buck the trend, but it does at least include the recognition of three fascinating locations.
Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, Khomani Cultural Landscape in South Africa, and Mbanza Kongo in Angola have all been added. Another site of African interest, Valongo Wharf Archaeological Site in Rio de Janeiro – an important physical legacy of the transatlantic slave trade – is also present.
Africa now has 138 designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For a site to be chosen it has to be considered a place of universal value and meet one of 10 criteria. This includes outstanding human settlements, architecture and natural beauty, among others.
Eritrea's Modernist playground
A few countries, like Somalia, are unable to receive World Heritage status for any potential sites having not ratified the 1972 World Heritage Convention. (Although the East African nation did register its intentions to do so in 2016.)
Asmara’s inclusion on the list makes it Eritrea’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was recognized for its futurist and modernist architecture, a product of the era of Italian colonial rule.
Angola’s was also awarded its first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Mbanza Kongo is a town in the north of the country and is the former capital of Kingdom of Kongo, which ruled much of Southern Africa from the 14th to the 19th centuries. South Africa now has nine UNESCO World Heritage Sites.