African Libraries Creating the Africa We Want and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
The most anticipated library conference in Africa – AfLIACon2019 – came to a successful end on May 24, 2019, at the Weston Hotel, Nairobi-Kenya, after a busy week of unending insight sharing, engaging discussions, thought-provoking presentations and fun-packed networking activities. This was an unforgettable occasion that brought together hundreds of delegates and exhibitors from across 23 countries globally – Botswana, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, India, Israel, Kenya, Lithuania, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe to exchange data, ideas and share solutions to advance knowledge in the library and information science sector towards achieving AU 2063 and UN 2030 Agenda.
Prior to the main conference, the second Convening of the Second Cohort of AfLIA’s flagship capacity training programme, International Network of Emerging Library Innovators Sub Saharan Africa – INELI-SSAf – was held from the 15th – 18th May 2019 closely followed by a 2-day workshop for the Second Cohort of the AfLIA Leadership Academy – AfLAc – organized from the 19th – 20th May 2019. Mentors and resource persons imparted critical knowledge while participants took turns to share the various innovative projects they intend carrying out (for INELI-SSAf innovators) and are carrying out (for AfLAc participants) in their respective libraries across Africa. INELI-SSAf Cohort 2 also embarked on a library visit to the Kibera Branch Library, Kenya National Library Service. It was another exciting opportunity to learn and reflect on new ideas and experiences that can be adapted to improve service delivery of the innovators in their respective countries.
The pre-conference activities were climaxed with an official book donation to the Langata Women Prison, Nairobi-Kenya on 20th May 2019. Inmates of the penitentiary were pleasantly surprised and elated as AfLIA, in the company of the INELI-SSAf and AfLAc cohorts, donated a total of 1,020 books comprising of textbooks, magazines, reference books, motivational books, general knowledge books etc. to women. Books donated were received via a book drive campaign that was embarked on, a few weeks prior to AfLIACon2019 with the aim of contributing to create a literacy-rich environment for women prisoners. We are immensely grateful to
United States International University Africa (USIU-Africa), Nairobi-Kenya, National Library Service (KNLS) and all who contributed books for the Langata Women Prison.
The opening ceremony was characterized by inspiring and heart-warming speeches. Beautifully clad delegates from the across the globe filled the conference room of Weston Hotel, Nairobi in earnest for the commencement of AfLIACon2019. Without delay, the 3rd AfLIA Conference and 5th African Library Summit officially kicked off with the Executive Director of AfLIA, Dr. Helena Asamoah-Hassan welcoming all delegates and invited guests among which included Hon. Hassan Noor Hassan, Deputy Minister for Sports, Culture and Heritage (Guest of Honour), Mr. Richard Atuti, Director of Kenya National Library Service (KNLS), Prof. Constantine Nyamboga, President of the Kenyan Library Association (Chairperson for the Opening Ceremony), Madam Harriette Chiggai, Vice President, Law Society of Kenya (Guest Speaker), Mr. Neil Butcher, OER Strategist, OER Africa (Keynote Speaker) and Mr. John Tsebe, President of AfLIA. Setting the tone for the conference, she stated, “this conference will commit to serious discussions about new developments in the LIS profession and how best these developments can be used to serve communities and users better – whichever type of library one belongs to”.
In his welcome address, Mr. Tsebe took the opportunity to officially welcome all delegates to the conference, stating “this conference is an important one which creates a significant platform for the exchange of ideas to develop the library and information science sector on the continent”. He underscored the pivotal role that librarians and libraries need to continue playing “more than ever before, in order to achieve the Africa We Want and the Sustainable Development Goals and urged participants to use this platform to brainstorm, learn and share current practices and new ideas in information management and use to build a vibrant library and information sector for the benefit of community”. In a short supportive video address, the President of IFLA, Glòria Pérez-Salmerón, also sent best wishes from IFLA to all AfLIACon2019 delegates.
In her speech, the Guest Speaker, Madam Harriette Chiggai, pointed out that “the successful attainment of the AU Agenda 2063 Aspirations Goals and Sustainable Development Goals hinges on access to information and knowledge that provides access to opportunities and leads to socio-economic development”. She therefore called on development partners and governments to work closely with libraries in achieving these global goals. Neil Butcher, the Keynote Speaker for the conference, hit the ground running by engaging delegates on the need for librarians, especially African librarians, to be particularly concerned and interested in Open Educational Resources and Open Licensing. After this address, the Kenyan Deputy Minister for Sports, Culture, Sports & Heritage, Hon. Hassan Noor Hassan declared the 3rd AfLIA Conference and 5th African Library Summit officially open.
The 4-day conference was fully packed with a chain of thrilling paper, poster and ignite talk presentations cross-cutting a variety of sub-themes including; African Libraries Creating Awareness of AU 2063 and UN 2030, Library Digital Innovation Competencies, Libraries as Drivers of Sustainable Economic Growth and Social Progress for The Africa We Want, Envisioning LIS Education and Access to Information for peace, conflict resolution and regional integration/library and information services promoting Good Governance, Human Rights and Rule of Law, preservation and promotion of African cultural heritage and identity among others.
At the Exhibition Hall, exhibitors were fully represented and maximized their participation to showcase their products and services, make new contacts and strengthen existing networks. The exhibition hall was colorfully designed and filled with stands/booths for Springer Nature, Eclat Engineering, AfLIA, Kenya National Library Service (knls), ProQuest, Universal Knowledge Software (UKS), EBSCO Information Services, John Wiley and Sons, Emerald Publishing, SABINET, Combined Systems AssetX and African Capacity Building Foundation Foundation (ACBF). Exhibitors showcased their products and services to conference delegates. Delegates also got lots of interesting souvenirs and gifts from the exhibitors as well. But it was much more fun as a few lucky ones also won big prizes from quick draws and raffles organized by some of the exhibitors.
Aside the welcoming conference environment, deep and insightful presentations and interactions, and beautiful exhibitions, delegates were treated to a memorable Cultural Night and Dinner at the Bomas of Kenya Restaurant (about 15-minute drive from the conference venue) on 22nd May, 2019. At this event, delegates were treated to a series of beautiful theatrical dance performances and authentic music performed by people representing the rich and diverse cultures of Kenya. Having the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr. William Samoei Ruto, grace the occasion as the Special Guest of Honour for the night was just the icing on the cake.
Speaking on the relevance of libraries to national development, DP Ruto said, “libraries are repositories of knowledge and information and are critical Institutions for checking ignorance; eradicating poverty; inequality and building a knowledge economy. We must develop them to advance learning, research and innovation and promote access to relevant information. The value of information is priceless in democratic societies, a key ingredient of open governance and a tool for empowering communities”. He also took the opportunity to acknowledge and congratulate the work of librarians in Kenya and Africa. The night was filled with excitement as some delegates seized rare moments to shake hands and take pictures with the Deputy President while others joined the cultural dance team on stage to display their joy through dancing.
The conference also saw the inauguration of a new AfLIA Governing Council to steer the affairs of the continental association from 2019 till 2021. The ceremony was conducted by Prof. Ismail Abdullahi, the first recipient of the AfLIA Lifetime Award for outstanding service to African Librarianship. Mr. Mandla Ntombela the new AfLIA President, paid special tribute to Mr. John Tsebe, his predecessor, for the sterling performance during his tenure. He expressed gratitude for the warmth and friendliness that AfLIA members from all sides of the continent have accorded to the outgoing Council.
The AfLIA President Mr. Ntombela, advocated for the elevation of librarians to the highest levels in their Institutions. He called on librarians to embrace continuous individual learning to keep their skills up to date and relevant so as to ably drive the implementation and impact of the SDGs and AU Agenda 2063 and all our national development agenda. He advised Librarians to use the Cape Town Declaration and Durban Communique to advocate for better placement of Libraries as we work towards achieving the development agendas. The President ended the speech with a request; “We will not even reach our destination without your active participation. I request all of you colleagues to come and join us on this journey. I am looking forward to the next two years of exciting times as we work together to do amazing things for AfLIA and Africa”. Click here for full list of new Council Members.
The closing ceremony was marked by a dinner and awards night. Delegates maximized their final chance to fraternize, interact, network among themselves and make merry during the closing dinner as they were treated to a mix of contemporary African music and dishes.
The conference could not have ended without acknowledging persons and bodies who have distinguished themselves in the LIS sector on the continent. During the closing ceremony on 24th May, 2019, the following honours and awards were conferred selected persons and associations for their outstanding contributions and distinguished services delivery as library professionals.
AfLIA LIFETIME AWARD – was awarded to Professor Ismail Abdullahi, for outstanding service to African Librarianship and beyond especially as pertains to the integration of multicultural perspectives in information provision. Prof. Abdullahi, in appreciation, acknowledged the immense contribution and impact of AfLIA within its short period of establishment and stated that though he is based in the United States, his connection to Africa was never compromised. He assured AfLIA of his continuous support and commitment in helping African Librarians achieve the SDGs and the “Africa We Want”.
The plaque for MY AFRICA YOUR AFRICA OUR AFRICA cultural display – was presented to Dar es Salaam Public Library, Tanzania.
The plaque for BEST VIDEO on Climate Change – was also presented to Mrs. Folasade Adepoju, Principal Librarian, National Library of Nigeria.
The plaque for BEST POSTER for Climate Change – was given to Moses Muendoh Munyao, Ednah Omare, Stephen Ario, Nyakundi James Nyambane. All of them work in USIU-Africa Library, Nairobi.
HIGHEST PARTICIPATING COUNTRY AWARD – went to Nigeria. President of the Nigerian Library Association, Dr. Umunna Opara, received the prestigious award on behalf of the Nigerians.
EIFL PUBLIC LIBRARY INNOVATION AWARD FOR PUBLIC LIBRARY SERVICES on improving people’s lives to Kenya National Library Service/Meru Public Library – was presented to Joan Njogu for changing young people’s attitudes to farming by combining ICT, entrepreneurship and agricultural training.
After a vote of thanks, the conference was officially closed by the immediate past AfLIA President, Mr. John Tsebe. Thanks to all for making AfLIACon2019 more than a success.
Next AfLIA Conference
The next AfLIA Conference will be in Accra. See you all in May 2021, in Accra!
Begin to make plans to attend.