Saturday, November 16, 2019

African Ministerial Conference on Information Access held in Accra

The 3rd Ministerial Roundtable meeting for African Ministers with oversight responsibilities for Libraries was held from 28-30 October 2019, at Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana under the auspices of the Ministry of Education. The two-day conference was under the theme, “Libraries on the African Development Agenda: Progress made” purposefully fell within the framework of the AU 2063 Agenda, the Charter for  African Renaissance and the related outcomes of the AU Commission meeting held in Algeria in October 2018. The conference was aimed at providing leadership and guidance on how African governments can integrate libraries in their national development plans and ensure allocation of resources towards the achievement of the development goals. 
Ghana’s Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh
announcing the Accra Declaration

In his address to the delegates, the Host Minister, Ghana’s Minister of Education Hon. Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh echoed the core of libraries and information access. The Hon Minister acknowledged that information has become very crucial to every enterprise in life, hence its acquisition, storage, dissemination, evaluation and use needs to be properly positioned. 

Libraries play a role in the organization of the deluge of information available today as a consequence of technological advancement,” he said. The Minister further detailed that the government of Ghana under the leadership of His Excellency President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo recognizes the importance of libraries in development and has rolled out interventions that have seen a rejuvenated public library service in the country. He concluded by disclosing that reforms have been taking place at public libraries in Ghana including increase in staff strength at Ghana Library Authority, opening up of new libraries, renovating existing libraries, increasing the number of books and adoption of technology in various forms of operations and service delivery.

In his address, AfLIA President Mr Mandla Ntombela highlighted the intention of the continental library body as to equip public libraries, even in remote rural areas of the continent, with 21st Century skills in LIS Sector that includes support of internet-connected libraries. This would have a far-reaching impact in promoting access to online information in a safe environment, with qualified library staff to guide patrons in the best use of the internet as an educational resource. On the future of community libraries, Mr Mandla noted that AfLIA visualizes an expanded community library network playing a vital role in nurturing cohesion because the libraries can provide a safe environment for social interaction, the exchange of information and ideas and development of skills. 

As AfLIA, we exist to empower the library and information community, so that they can positively contribute towards the achievement of the African Development Agenda (AU Agenda 2063) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), through dynamic services that transform the livelihoods of Africans. AfLIA family of information leaders, fully embrace the strategic value of Access to Information  as a fundamental Human Right- Mandla emphasized.
Mr. Mandla Ntombela AfLIA President addressing participants 

The AfLIA supremo also noted that African libraries and information services face huge challenges in the documentation and communication of indigenous knowledge. These include the lack of financial resources, human capacity, technology shortages and the lack of legal frameworks at national and international level to support the library efforts to document and communicate indigenous knowledge. The fast-developing information and communication technologies continue to pose challenges on how best libraries can document and disseminate this oral and community-based knowledge to a globally accepted knowledge base.

Thirty-two (32) African countries were represented at the conference consisting of ministers, Directors of libraries and high-level emerging library leaders on the continent. At the end of the conference, African governments were expected to make commitments to strategies mapped out towards the development of libraries on the African continent. 

                                                 Courtesy of Dr. Sarah Kaddu.