The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation ( UNESCO ) on Wednesday said digitally documenting the heritage and culture of Africa would help the preservation and restoration for future use.

Mr Benda Fackson, the Programme Specialist for the Memory of the World ( MoW ), UNESCO, said this at the preparatory meeting with stakeholders on the Documentary Heritage for Sustainable Development in Africa in Abuja.

UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme is an initiative to safeguard the documentary heritage of humanity against amnesia neglect, the ravages of time and climatic conditions and deliberate destructions of valuable archival materials.

The meeting was part of the activities toward an international conference to be hosted by Nigeria on ways to implement the UNESCO’s recommendations concerning the preservation and access to documentary heritage including in digital form.

“Digital documentation helps for preservation of culture, so to afford universal access to them; it will help people enjoy them as widely as possible given the fact that with new technologies there is access.

“Documents are histories, lives of ancestors and the lives of the people. By digitising them you are preserving them and in some cases restoring them.

“We need to sensitise people on the importance of digitisation not only as a medium which can give rise to new digital documents but also as a medium that can be used to preserve analogue documents.”

Fackson said that documenting Memories of the World should not be seen as a tourist venture, rather a development initiative and a way of knowing people and their cultures.

He said that Nigeria was keen on the MoW programme, adding that the country was part of the international advisory committee on the world programme.

“We believe that Nigeria has the capacity to host a conference of this type. It is entrenched in rich documentary heritage across institutions of the country both in public and private sector.

“We have held conferences of this sort in Nigeria and they have been successful and UNESCO member states are focusing on implementing the report on the 2015 Cultural heritage.”

He, however, commended the country for its political commitment toward MoW programmes and hosting the conference.

He called on the Federal Government to support the conference as a way of increasing the documentation level of African heritage and revamping the region’s committee on MoW.

The officer said that over 25 countries of sub-Saharan African countries are expected to be at the conference which would hold from June 25 to June 27.

Prof. Folarin Shyllon, the Chairman, Nigeria Committee on Memories of the World, said that the National Archives of Nigeria was underfunded and these had contributed to its setbacks.

“There is the need to pay attention to documenting the heritage of Africa through implementation of policies on cultural heritage.’’

He said that stakeholders were committed to ensure the sensitisation of culture centres in Africa for documentary heritage.

Some of the stakeholders at the meeting include Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation, National Council of Arts and Culture, National Library of Nigeria and they pledged their commitment toward the success of the conference.

Source: The Nation