As I reflect on Africa Day this year, I am reminded of the incredible connections and friendships that exist between the UAE and the African continent. For me, this relationship is personal – I have had the privilege of visiting several African countries and experiencing first-hand the warmth and hospitality of the people there.
From the vibrant colours of African fabrics to the diverse rhythms of African music, the entire continent is full of life and energy. As both the economic and cultural ties between the UAE and Africa have continued to grow stronger year-on-year, it is clear that this relationship is built on a foundation of shared values and aspirations, including a commitment to preserving cultural heritage.
The UAE’s Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, was a strong advocate for cultural preservation and exchange, recognising its importance in fostering understanding and appreciation between different cultures. His legacy continues to inspire the UAE's efforts to support cultural initiatives around the world, including in Africa.
Through its support of African museums and institutions, as well as cultural exchange programmes and events, the UAE is helping to safeguard Africa's unique cultural heritage for future generations while deepening appreciation between the UAE and Africa.
This year, to mark the occasion of Africa Day, the UAE announced a fund to support world heritage projects, document conservation, and capacity-building initiatives at a number of sites across the continent. The fund will be launched in collaboration with the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas and the African World Heritage Fund.
Preserving heritage in Africa is critical for maintaining cultural identity, promoting economic growth, providing educational opportunities, protecting the environment, and ensuring that future generations will have the chance to learn about and appreciate their cultural heritage.
By preserving heritage sites and traditions, African communities can connect with their past and understand their history, which is an essential part of their cultural identity. Additionally, heritage preservation can attract tourism and contribute to economic growth while also providing an opportunity for education and learning.
Today, the UAE is significantly invested in the growth, prosperity and security of the entire continent, with the mutual issues facing both the UAE and Africa – climate change, for example – underscoring our solidarity in confronting these shared challenges must remain a priority.
The world has already seen that climate change knows no borders, so the UAE continues to advocate for increased climate change mitigation efforts that consider the interests of developing countries that are often disproportionately affected. Indeed, renewable energy and food security in particular are key fields in which the UAE is committed to partnering with African nations to promote the welfare of the broader region in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The UAE is well aware of the threat to African culture and heritage posed by natural disasters and rising temperatures, and how culture and climate intersect, with the issues set to be highlighted at Cop28, which will take place at Expo City Dubai this November.
At the convention, the UAE will continue to advocate for vulnerable communities and ensure that no country is left behind in efforts to drastically scale up climate change mitigation efforts. Its African partners will have an important role to play in ensuring the success of these multilateral efforts and that the peoples of the continent will benefit through the economic opportunity that climate action can generate.
Ultimately, from climate change mitigation to cultural exchange and heritage preservation, ties between the UAE and African countries are slated for further advancement, progress and growth. The UAE’s Africa Day celebrations, in concert with the fund designated for the continent, will further strengthen our long-standing people-to-people ties and friendships and will help us work together towards a brighter future for all.