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AFRICOM's foundations: In 1991 on the initiative of Alpha Oumar Konaré, then President of ICOM and current President of the Republic of Mali, Encounters on the theme "What Museums for Africa? Heritage in the Future" were organised by ICOM in Lomé (Togo).
From ICOM's programme for Africa to the International Council of African Museums
During three days of intense discussion and thought, museum professionals determined priorities for the needs of the museums and the museum profession in Africa. Four areas of focus were defined:
- The autonomy of African museums
- Regional collaboration between museums through joint activities
- Specialised training for museum curators, technicians and teachers
- Protecting heritage and fighting against the illicit traffic in cultural property.
It was on these themes that ICOM's programme for Africa, known as AFRICOM, was based. The programme was implemented by museums in Africa, run by ICOM, and supervised by a Coordinating Committee made up of African museum professionals. The financing was provided by public and private international institutions.
After eight years of projects and activities relating to all fields of museology, African museum professionals and ICOM's General Assembly decided that the coordination of the AFRICOM Programme could be transferred to Africa, and that the programme could become a fully-fledged organisation: the International Council of African Museums.
The meeting in Lusaka not only marked the founding of the organisation but also provided the opportunity to focus on new projects and perspectives for museums in Africa.
- AFRICOM or the "Spirit of Lomé "
AFRICOM is characterised above all by a frame of mind known as the " Spirit of Lomé " which should underlie museum policies for the continent as a whole, stressing cultural coherence on a wide regional scale, and ignoring language barriers between Arab-speaking, English-speaking, French-speaking and Portuguese-speaking peoples.
In this context the AFRICOM Programme relies on sharing experience and comparing professional practices. Its goal is to enhance the skills of African professionals and institutions in order to raise their credibility and bolster their action within the international community.
The professionals of AFRICOM work together to help museums evolve, reinforcing their place in society, enabling them to adapt to everyday realities and to play their role fully as institutions that serve the community and contribute to its development.
- Objectives and areas of focus
Concrete projects are drawn up to promote and develop museums, to protect heritage and to further the spread of culture throughout Africa.
The AFRICOM Programme's major goal is to develop exchanges between professionals on the continent and those outside Africa, and to consolidate regional networks of professionals.
The areas of focus are:
- Identifying a network of museum professionals in Africa
- Developing training programmes for museums in Africa, giving priority to educational services, documenting collections, and management
- Enabling museums to acquire a greater autonomy in order to take new initiatives, for instance in financing
- Fighting against the looting of archaeological sites and theft in museums, and raising awareness among the various components of society about protecting heritage
- Inventorying objects, computerising and standardising the inventories of African collections
- Improving communication between museum professionals thanks to the Internet
- Encouraging exhibitions to travel throughout Africa.
- AFRICOM in Africa
AFRICOM became the International Council of African Museums, a pan-African, autonomous, non-governmental organisation (NGO) that is coordinated, managed and financed under the responsibility of African professionals. The new organisation is based in Africa to continue the work that has been undertaken over the past 8 years.
AFRICOM has the following mission:
- AFRICOM seeks the development of African societies by encouraging museums in their role as initiators of culture and agents of cultural cohesion
- The mission of AFRICOM is to develop museum policies and networking on a continental and regional level, focusing on the cohesion of cultures beyond geographical and linguistic barriers.
- Promote the development of museums and museum-related institutions in Africa in the context of global development
- Promote the development of professions on which museum activities are built
- Strengthen collaboration and cooperation among museums and museum professionals in Africa, and develop exchanges with museum professionals abroad
- Promote the participation of all components of society in the protection and enhancement of cultural and natural heritage
- Establish and maintain an effective autonomous institution to achieve these objectives.
The country to host AFRICOM's headquarters, the statutes, the Board of Directors, the budget and the 2000-2002 Activities Programme has been adopted at the Lusaka meeting in Zambia on 3-9 October, 1999.