Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

The Digital Age and African Studies Scholarship: Promoting Access and Visibility of Information Resources

Academic journal article African Research & Documentation

The Digital Age and African Studies Scholarship: Promoting Access and Visibility of Information Resources

Article excerpt

Introduction

Africa is a region made up of different countries; occupied by people of different ethnicities and cultures with a rapidly growing population. "Africa's population has been growing 2.3 per cent per year, a rate more than double that of Asia's population (1 per cent per year). The population of Africa first surpassed a billion in 2009 and is expected to add another billion in just 35 years (by 2044)"1. It is also a region whose countries are at different levels of development; politically, socially and economically. Politically, at least since the 1990s, most of the countries are moving away from one party forms of governance and military dictatorships to multiparty political dispensations. Socially it has been affected and afflicted by poverty, diseases and internal conflicts that have brought a lot of suffering to its peoples. In a continent as diverse as Africa; with all its artificial boundaries and divisions, information provision through libraries in all formats can play a big role in fostering a sense of identity and solidarity. It is particularly important that the peoples of Africa are aware of the abundance and richness of African Studies Scholarship. In this context libraries and information centres can play a vital role in identifying, organising, disseminating and preserving that scholarship for future generations. This role for libraries has been spurred by the emergence of the internet.

African Studies Scholarship is rich and diverse. It spans different regions and covers several different subject areas. Traditionally, it was thought that African Studies Scholarship came mainly from Universities and Research Institutes. However, it is now acknowledged that African Studies knowledge is being produced by other actors; such as Civil Society, Non Government Organisations (NGOs) and religious institutions and by ordinary citizens, especially those with access to the internet. In addition, vast amounts of African Scholarship exist as traditional knowledge; this is the knowledge that needs to be tapped and made easily accessible to all segments of the African population.

African Studies Scholarship in Sub Saharan Africa

African Studies Scholarship is rich and diverse; reflecting the diversity, richness and demographics of this vast continent. African Studies Scholarship can be subdivided into the following; knowledge printed and published on the African continent, knowledge printed and published outside the continent, grey literature produced in Africa and oral knowledge/indigenous knowledge (IK).

* Knowledge printed and published on the African continent

This is knowledge that is produced by various institutions in Africa. Some of the foremost producers of African Studies Scholarship on the African continent are organisations such as the Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA - http://www.codesria.org/), the Organisation for Social Science Research in Eastern and Southern Africa (OSSREA - www.ossrea.net/) and the African Gender Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa (AGI - http://agi.ac.za/) amongst many others.

* Knowledge printed and published outside the continent

There are several institutions that focus on Africa Studies Scholarship all over the world. These include the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands; the African Studies Centre, University of Oxford, United Kingdom; the Centre for African Studies, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom; the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the United Kingdom; the African Studies Center, Michigan State University in the United States of America; the Institute of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University (IASZNU) in China; the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia; Centre for African Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland and the Institute of African Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul Korea. …

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