The Gambia is playing host to a sub-regional meeting on ECOWAS cultural policy and action plan for 2019-2023 with the aim of ensuring that allegedly looted artefacts from the region found in Western museums are returned back to the country of their origin.
In her opening statement on behalf of the tourism minister, Kodu Jabang-Senghore, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Tourism and Culture said the meeting is relevant to development in the ECOWAS space, noting that ECOWAS cultural policy action plan seeks to start or charge cultural and heritage development and value plans for the region.
“This is vital when we talk of culture and heritage in the same lens as science and technology is part of bringing development and regional cooperation,” she said.
The policy action plan, she went on, seek to harness various synergies in the culture and heritage in the ECOWAS space and to add value to identities as people boost tourism thus also creating job opportunities.
PS Jabang maintained that the looting of cultural items found in Western museums is also a great interest as ‘we in The Gambia and all other ECOWAS countries suffered from such illegal movement of heritage objects out of Europe during colonial rule’.
Hassoum Ceesay, director-general, National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) said the meeting is very important for them at the NCAC to have been chosen to host the information session on ECOWAS regional cultural policy.
“Last year, we attended the same meeting in Congo, and when we came back, I was able to see in the research that even The Gambia has dozen of cultural objects of artistic facts in the French museums which came from The Gambia. Other ECOWAS cultural policy is quite important for us because we are in the process of finalising our new cultural policy for The Gambia.”
Dr Raguidissida Emil Zida, head of Division, Culture ECOWAS Mission acknowledged that the adoption of the ECOWAS Cultural Policy came at a crucial time of great challenge for Africa as a whole, especially West African as a region.
“It is also taking place at a time when the role of culture for development has been recognised internationally, but unfortunately is still slow to materialise on our continent.”