Posted by: africanpressorganization | 2 July 2009

Conference Calls for an Emphasis on Knowledge for Development in Africa.





Conference Calls for an Emphasis on Knowledge for Development in Africa.



ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, July 2, 2009/African Press Organization (APO)/ — The Deputy Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Ms Lalla Ben Barka, has called for the promotion of knowledge as an essential element in the development process.

Ms Ben Barka made the call Wednesday 1st July, while opening the First International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives, taking place at ECA head office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The conference will explore ways of capturing and disseminating knowledge in the service of development, from the grassroots level to senior policy makers. It is being attended by about 250 participants from around the world, including senior programme managers from international and intergovernmental organisations, universities, research centres, and national knowledge institutions such as libraries and archives.

“The most successful route to building knowledge societies is through building strong knowledge institutions and spreading awareness of new technical and cultural possibilities for sharing of information and resources,” Ms Ben Barka said.

“In this regard, promoting knowledge for development is a vast undertaking, requiring multi-stakeholder processes and partnership, and a coordinated approach,” she added. She said ECA, as a knowledge institution, is working with other partners in order to realize this goal.

The chairperson of the conference, Dr. Buhle Mbambo-Thata from the University of South Africa, said African countries should use the opportunity brought by South Africa’s hosting of the soccer World Cup, to expand access to digital sources of knowledge. 

“A lot of infrastructure is being developed in order to transmit the World Cup across the globe. After the World Cup is over, the infrastructure will remain and can be used to expand internet access within Africa,” she said.

ECA Chief Librarian, Abraham Azubuike, called on African governments to institute programmes that assist in closing the digital divide. He gave an example of the United States of America, where people without private access to the internet can use public libraries free of charge. 

He said that even though African countries are poor, they can still afford to subsidise public access to the internet in public libraries and schools. He reiterated the importance of knowledge, saying “development plans without an emphasis on access to, and utilization of knowledge are bound to fail as development itself is a learning process.”


The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand are co-organising the 1st International Conference on African Digital Libraries and Archives. The forum is taking place from 1 to 3 July at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The two topics of discussion are:

1. Putting knowledge on Africa’s Development Agenda
This forum will discuss the importance of ensuring that the development and use of knowledge resources and services are recognized as critical for effective economic and human development and empowerment. It will also explore how to adequately mainstream knowledge development and use in the design and implementation of African development strategies and programmes.

2. Connecting Africans to their own resources: developing policies and strategies for Africa’s digital future
The second forum will discuss policies, strategies, innovations and projects in Africa on digital libraries, archives, cultural heritage and institutional repositories. Speakers and experts from all over Africa will report on their programmes and discuss the challenges faced to preserve African content for Africans in Africa.

The Conference is co-sponsored with funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Swedish International Development Agency. 


Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)


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