A report laying the foundation for the return of tens of thousands of African treasures has been completed and will be submitted to French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday.
Expert say the restitution of these works is an act of justice.
Authors of the report have proposed a major legislative change of the French heritage code for restitution of collections found in French museums.
Benin needs these assets to strengthen its national economy and to provide employment for cultural heritage managers and conservationists.
Macron had entrusted two French and Senegalese academics, Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr, to carry out extensive consultations. But a specialized lawyer, Yves-Bernard Debie who opposed the restitution claims that ‘’ no ancient African art dealer was consulted’‘.
Those for the move claim this is historic, saying it is one step away from retrieving the African story.
“Benin needs these assets to strengthen its national economy and to provide employment for cultural heritage managers and conservationists. There are many them on the ground”, said Asset Manager, Happy Gougou.
Experts say, 85 to 90% of Africa’s heritage is outside the continent. The report lists “at least 90,000 objects from sub-Saharan Africa in French public collections”. Benin, who helped launch the report is claiming some of the collections.
“The Beninese government’s action programme today has made tourism a priority and the most eloquent projects, the flagship projects are in the tourism sector’‘, said Ousmane Aledji, Culture Officer of President Patrice Talon.
Some critics who oppose the return of these collection claim this is likely to trigger territorial disputes.
These arts were brought from Africa between 1885 and 1960 by colonizers.