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On the occasion of African World Heritage Day, the European Union together with Ugandan partners launch a mobile app, three annotated maps and a photographic book with content to protect the posterity of historical buildings and sites in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe. The three products are the result of a year-long collaboration between the European Union, the Cross Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) and the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities to mark the European Year of Cultural Heritage in 2018.
Today, Ms Doreen Katusiime, Permanent Secretary of the Minister of Tourism, Ms Maris Wanyera, Acting Director Debt and Cash Policy at the Ministry of Finance, and Ms Emily Drani, CCFU Executive Director, joined his Excellency Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, Head of the European Union Delegation to Uganda, to officially launch the products which will enable people of all walks of life to access crucial information about Uganda's architectural heritage which is currently under threat. The collaboration identified historical buildings and sites as an important point of common heritage between Uganda and Europe, providing an avenue to share experiences in documentation, protection, rehabilitation and economic opportunities in protection of cultural heritage.
The photographic book, titled "Beyond the Reeds and Bricks: Historical Sites and Buildings in Kampala, Jinja and Entebbe", comes in glossy format with exclusive and beautiful pictures, while the annotated maps detail the historical buildings and sites for each of the three cities. The mobile app, "Uganda's Built Heritage" (available on both android and Iphone), digitalizes the content for easy access for every smart phone user. The content features at least 60 buildings in the project, representing Uganda’s architectural history, covering the pre-colonial era and post-independence Uganda.
Through the project, European experts worked with Ugandan counterparts to develop capacities in documentation and research and photography. The project’s outputs are the result of the excellent work carried out by trained Ugandan specialists.
"The pioneering strategy of this project will pave the way for a ground-breaking understanding and perspective about historical buildings in Uganda," said Ambassador Pacifici. He expressed positive expectation on the results of the project, which he said aims at "raising awareness of the value of historical buildings in Uganda while generating opportunities to create new jobs and develop innovative business especially for young people."
The 4th target of Sustainable Development Goal 11 calls for strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage, reflecting global realisation that many urban cities are fast expanding and face the risk of losing their historical and cultural identity, if heritage infrastructure and associated cultural values are not preserved and promoted.
Uganda, a country gifted with diverse cultural, natural and built heritage, is no exception, as consequences of urbanisation, rapid population growth and the pressing drive for modernity have created a constant demand for or new,
higher-density development, often on plots which are already occupied by historical buildings and sites. Many valuable built and natural heritage sites have been already lost forever. The risk of further losing this heritage is real, and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
"We are proud and privileged to be part of this partnership," stated Ms Katusiime. "We are actually in the process of changing the name of our ministry, to make it official to include heritage in our title; which actually stands at the core of the ministry's mandate."
Ms Wanyera stressed on the economic opportunities opened by protecting cultural heritage. "As country we relay a lot on income from exports: last financial year, the tourism sector fetched Uganda 1. 8 billion USD, followed by coffee and gold. Yet this is an area not fully exploited. There is still room to develop further the tourism industry. If we partner with the private sector we can go a long way."
On her part, Ms Drani said: “It is anticipated that the availability of these three maps, the gift book and the mobile app, as well as the existence of our irreplaceable historical buildings and sites, will trigger public interest in preserving and promoting them as important aspects of the history, identity and heritage of our communities, cities and of Uganda as a nation."
The partners called upon policy makers both at national level and local level to take the necessary action to establish legal instruments to identify, list, protect and promote historical properties in their respective cities and to serve as examples of preservation champions to other municipalities. They encourage all Ugandans to play their part: use the maps and app to visit a site and advocate for the preservation of historical buildings and sites in this beautiful country!