The fund was created to finance research on objects from anywhere in sub-Saharan Africa, but priority is expected to be given to countries colonized by France and Germany, such as Togo and Cameroon.

"This is an experimental fund," said Julie Sissia, a researcher at the Centre Marc Bloch, a Franco-German research center in Berlin that will manage the funds.

"The launch of the program shows that collaborations across borders and between science and culture make such important projects possible and much needed in such challenging times," Claudia Roth, Germany's federal commissioner for culture and media, said at the launch of the Franco-German project.

What happened?

The European debate on the return of African heritage artifacts began in 2017 when French President Emmanuel Macron announced that he would "do everything possible" to return some of Africa's cultural heritage looted by colonial France.

France returned 26 artifacts to Benin in 2021, but these efforts have been interrupted in recent years. A law on the return of cultural property looted abroad, which was expected to pass parliament at the end of 2023, was blocked by the opposition. 

In November 2022, a German foundation funded the launch of the first comprehensive database of artifacts known as Benin bronzes, and a year later the German Foreign Minister physically returned 21 bronzes to Nigeria.