Sweden and the Nordic Countries

By Lund-Moberg, Åsa | African Research & Documentation, January 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Sweden and the Nordic Countries


Lund-Moberg, Åsa, African Research & Documentation


The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI) in Uppsala is a research, documentation and information centre on modern Africa for the Nordic countries. It promotes research and studies on Africa in the Nordic regions as well as collaboration between African and Nordic researchers. It also disseminates information about current African issues. The institute is a public agency under the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Its director is Carin Norberg. The Nordic countries finance the Institute and members from all Nordic countries sit on its Programme and Research Council. One of the core activities of the institute is the library, which serves as a documentation centre for research and studies on modern Africa in the Nordic regions.

Uppsala is the major centre for Africana collections in Sweden, although Gothenberg University has an African language collection and also has material relevant to Africa-orientated scholars in their Women's History Collections.

Interestingly enough, when the institute was founded in 1962, the library was the reason for it being located in Uppsala. At that time Uppsala University Library already housed a large collection of literature on African languages, ethnography, theology, archaeology, geography and history. Today, the libraries of Uppsala University and the NAI provide scholars, students and private persons interested in Africa with a rich and unique African studies collection comprising approximately 90,000 titles.

Uppsala University Library covers the above-mentioned subjects as well as works that deal with African and colonial history for the period up until 1945. The collection includes letters and reports by missionaries, as well as manuscripts, many of which are from Ethiopia. In 1990, the collection consisted of approximately 30,000 titles. The Nordic Africa Institute Library collection, with its focus on modern Africa and the social sciences from the Second World War onwards, complements that of the university.

The NAI collection consists of about 60,000 titles and 450 current journals covering the whole continent. It is the largest social science collection on modern Africa in the Nordic countries. Literature published in African countries is well represented alongside that from publishing houses in the North. The collection is research-oriented and mainly in English and French, but also includes material in Portuguese, Nordic /Scandinavian languages and The library also holds special collections of official publications and pamphlets. In addition, it keeps modern African fiction, maps, and a small selection of CDs, DVDs and videos of documentaries and feature films. All titles can be searched for in the library online catalogue AfricaLit at http: / / africalit.nai.uu.se, by using English geographic and thematic keywords. The library collection is largely influenced by the relationships between the Nordic countries and Africa. Emphasis is placed on East and Southern Africa in the country collection and unique material is available in the pamphlet and official publications collections. There is good coverage on the subject of liberation movements.

Africa from a Nordic perspective

The Institute was founded in 1962. During the 1960s there was a growing interest in developing countries and in joint Nordic projects. Yet, although development aid issues were high on the agenda for Nordic countries, there was little knowledge amongst politicians, policy makers and particularly amongst the general public about developing countries. The Institute was founded in order to meet this need for information on Africa. In 1968, a similar institute focusing on Asia was established in Copenhagen. Plans were afoot for founding an institute for Latin American studies in Oslo, but a shortage of funding and motivation put a stop to this.

The Nordic countries have much in common regarding relations with Africa. All had missionaries active in Africa, no real colonial history and active civil societies. …

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