INTO – the International National Trusts Organisation – held its first Africa conference earlier this year in Kenya.

It brought together organisations from eight countries, including a new member: Heritage Watch Ethiopia

Here’s their report.


INTO Africa Conference Report

Posted on March 31, 2020


INTO Africa completes a successful first meeting

Nairobi, Kenya

29 February – 1 March 2020



Adapted from a report by John de Koninck, INTO Africa Chair




INTO members and potential future members from across Africa attended a four day programme in Nairobi this February, taking place at the National Museum of Kenya. Days one and two were an opportunity for attendees to take part in the Culture Grows programming and get some networking done, thanks to a partnership with the British Council. Days three and four explored themes of common interest for INTO’s African membership.

Emily Drani, Deputy Chair of INTO's board, in Nairobi

Delegates spent a busy two days at a wider event organised by the British Council, discussing heritage work in the African context and meeting colleagues from across the region. The event was particularly well attended by the artistic community of Nairobi, re-imagining their heritage for a modern audience with British Council support.

The INTO regional meeting itself brought together 22 people, representing eight countries (Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya, the UK, the Seychelles, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe and Uganda) and two international organisations (ICCROM and UNESCO). Of these, the Zimbabwe National Trust, the Zanzibar Stone Town SocietyHeritage Watch Ethiopia and the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda (CCFU) are already members of INTO.


INTO Africa delegates

Success stories from African heritage trusts

The conference began with a focus on success stories, and representatives of the heritage trusts and INGOs shared their positive experiences. We heard of youth craft development work in Zimbabwe and Zanzibar, and the challenges of too many and too few tourists. In Uganda, CCFU presented work bordering natural and cultural conservation, as well as cultural rights, while the Nigerian delegates discussed the repurposing of old buildings in Lagos, ensuring their economic viability in the vibrant and rapidly developing city.

From Bookbunk, we heard of efforts to restore Nairobi’s colonial libraries and re-imagine their purpose for young Kenyans. The Seychelles Heritage Foundation shared their work, describing four sites across the archipelago and their statutory role in protecting and promoting them. Finally, the newest INTO member Heritage Watch Ethiopia talked about the urgent mission to survey the heritage buildings of Addis Ababa.

Panel discussions and presentations discussed the financing of heritage organisations in Africa and the different models open to heritage trusts in Africa. Led by INTO’s Specialist Adviser Oliver Maurice, this session produced a number of conclusions to guide prospective work in Africa:

  • It is sometimes more appropriate to think about long-term management of property rather than ownership.
  • The greatest effect can sometimes be found where the NGO sector engages with the state.
  • There are many stories of success within INTO membership where organisations have started from very small beginnings.
  • Youth need to be engaged from the outset, nowhere more so than in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • A mix of grant and earned income is desirable.

National Museums of Kenya

The role of INTO

Day two of the conference began with a presentation from ICCROM’s Rim Kelouze on new project work planned for Africa. The group then heard about what INTO membership entails from Deputy Secretary-General Alexander Lamont Bishop, before a facilitated discussed on how the group can best engage with INTO. It was decided to aim to:

  • Provide a stronger voice for African heritage organisations within INTO;
  • Emphasise the intangible dimension of heritage within INTO’s thinking and practice;
  • Provide expertise on community participation in conservation projects and working with youth across the continent;
  • Share information and involve other heritage organisations to reach out and join INTO;
  • Develop National Trust models relevant to the African context.