I would like to extend our warmest welcome and a word of appreciation to all our visitors, ministers, country representatives, IFLA and delegates for heeding the clarion call for this meeting of African Ministers under the auspices of IFLA 2015 here in Cape Town.
The great Kwame Nkrumah in his book “Africa must unite” writes about a continental government for Africa. He points out that:“Our continent gives us the second largest land stretch in the world. The natural wealth of Africa is estimated to be greater than that of almost any other continent in the world. To draw the most from our existing and potential means for the achievement of abundance and a fine social order, we need to unify our efforts, our resources, our skills and intentions.”
Last year during my acceptance speech at the IFLA conference in Lyon, France, I committed to invite ministers responsible for culture, information and library services from across the African continent to attend the IFLA 2015 conference, hence we are all gathered here at this pre conference meeting.
This year IFLA marks its 81st congress and it will be the third time that it is hosted in the African continent under the theme, “Dynamic Libraries: Access, Development and Transformation”.
IFLA provides an important platform for professional exchange and sharing of ideas, and identifying areas for partnerships and collaborations. It is an opportunity for us to showcase our libraries, our professionals and best practices that are emerging as critical development partners throughout the African continent.
It is for this reason that I have taken it upon myself that there should be an enhancement of the political will that would ensure African countries’ support and commitment on the culture, information and library services.
Through this pre conference we would like to ignite discussions around the following:
- Participation of African Ministers responsible for culture, information and library services at IFLA conferences hosted annually in different countries;
- African Ministers to be champions or ambassadors of libraries in their respective countries and ensure that libraries agenda is included in their countries development plans;
- African Position on access to information and libraries to be included in the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
It is such initiatives that would enable us to realise the aspirations of which Agenda 2063 – “The Africa We Want”, is founded on.
Libraries create a thriving literary landscape and a widespread culture of reading that serves as a catalyst for the creation of a prosperous Africa.
Through the libraries we will add meaningful value in our endeavour to address the lack of a culture of reading, and contribute towards the attainment of the broader imperatives of developing a caring, democratic and cohesive Africa.
Out of reading and writing we also develop our analytical capacity so that we can address even more complex matters and problems that affect our people and ourselves.
With the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through a special fund called “Global Libraries Support Initiative” that focuses on providing and expanding technology access in public libraries throughout the country, especially in rural areas, the National Library of SA have run a pilot project in all 9 provinces to expand access to digital resources. Free Wi-Fi and ongoing training in computer use, social media communication and finance management is being provided in these selected libraries.
We look forward to an interactive session that would seek to ensure that Africa takes her rightful place in the family of nations as we put libraries at the forefront of sustainable development.
In my opinion, the Lyon Declaration launched at the IFLA Conference in August 2014 is a shining example of international cooperation among librarians who succeeded in articulating the role of libraries in supporting the many facets of sustainable development.
As a librarian myself, I am acutely aware of the importance of sound policies at all levels of government, coupled with sufficient funding, to help libraries fulfil their roles as agents of change.
We wish you a good stay here in the mother city. During your leisure time explore the beauty of the City of Cape Town, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, The Majestic Table Mountain, Robben Island, Cape Point and many other destinations.
I thank you. Obrigado. Asante sana.