AFRICOM today is an International NGO registered by the Government of Kenya. The Secretariat is located in the capital city, Nairobi, in offices graciously offered by the National Museums of Kenya (NMK).
Core funding for AFRICOM's operations from 2000 to 2003 was received from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida); Sida has generously extended a further grant for the period 2004 to 2006. Major financial partners for AFRICOM's activities (2000-2003) included UNESCO, Africalia, Association Francaise d'Action Artistique (AFAA), the Ford Foundation, the Getty Grant Program, and the French Cultural and Cooperation Centre (Nairobi).
The resources of the AFRICOM Information Centre assist the Secretariat to respond to thousands of queries from museums and heritage professionals and students on a range of subjects affecting museums and the heritage sector. AFRICOM also hosts an extensive computerised database of museums and museum professionals on the continent.
AFRICOM News, an annual publication, is distributed widely, and the updated Directory of Museum Professionals in Africa was published and distributed in 2003. AFRICOM encourages the partnership and sharing of resources among partner organisations in the cultural and heritage sectors.
ICOM's programme for Africa, known as AFRICOM, was born as an outcome of a series of meetings "What Museums for Africa? Heritage in the Future" organised by the International Council of Museums (ICOM) in Benin, Ghana and Togo in 1991. The aim of the meetings was to address the role and the relevance of museums for the African continent. Subsequently, African professionals drew up a programme that addressed 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
The programme was implemented by museums in Africa, run by ICOM, and supervised by a Coordinating Committee made up of African museum professionals. In its two phases, 1993-1995 (AFRICOM I) and 1996-1998 (AFRICOM II), AFRICOM initiated a whole range of projects to fulfill its objectives. At the same time, the programme management evolved towards greater autonomy and greater responsibility of the African professionals involved, thus creating the conditions for transforming AFRICOM into a non-governmental professional organisation.
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.
A Constituent Assembly of AFRICOM convened in Lusaka, Zambia from 3rd to 9th of October 1999 and developed the organisation's constitution and a detailed programme for the next three years. The Assembly elected also the Board of Directors, the President and the Treasurer, and decided that the organisation's headquarters shall be established in Nairobi, Kenya.
The 1993-1999 period saw the initiation and pioneering of AFRICOM as a pan-African NGO bringing together diverse members across the continent. The consolidation period of 1999-2002 resulted in the establishment of the organisation as fully constituted body within Africa.
AFRICOM seeks to contribute to the positive development of African societies by encouraging the role of museums as generators of culture and as agents of cultural cohesion.
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