Zanzibar, Tanzania, December 15-16, 2010
Since the years of independences, the founding fathers of the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) recognized and emphasized the role of African languages as a vehicle of African integration and development.
In this context, many resolutions and or decisions were taken in international conferences, notably the Cultural Charter of Africa in 1976, the Language Plan of Action for Africa in 1986, the Harare Declaration of 1997, the Decision of the Linkage between Culture and Education in 2006, the Year of African Languages in 2006 etc. Many institutions and centres like the defunct OAU Inter- African Bureau of Languages (BIL) in Kampala, Uganda, the Centre of Linguistic and Historical Studies through Oral Tradition (CELHTO) at Niamey, Niger; the Regional Centre of Documentation on Oral Traditions and African Languages (CERDOTOLA) in Yaoundé, Cameroon, the Eastern African Centre for Research on Oral Tradition and National Languages (EACROTANAL) in Zanzibar, Tanzania, etc. have been established to empower African languages and cultures.
However, it was realised that despite the creation of these centres more works needed to be done in order to linguistically decolonise, integrate and develop Africa. In order to face these challenges, the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), was established by the African Union as its specialised institution, mandated to develop and promote the use of African languages in all domains of society, in partnership with English, French, Portuguese and Spanish, as a pragmatic means of fostering African integration and development. ACALAN is accordingly the highest authority to initiate ideas, make decisions about language policies, and translate them into workable action plans, in collaboration with the reservoir of expertises at the disposal of the Member States of the African Union. It also collaborates with the regional and national centres of languages and culture at grass-root level to effectively carry out its functions.
In this context, the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN), in collaboration with the Regional Economic Communities, notably the East African Community (EAC) has decided to organise a workshop, in Zanzibar, Tanzania, between December 15 and 16, 2010, bringin,g together the various Regional Centers and Organizations dealing with Culture and Languages in Africa, such as CELHTO, CERDOTOLA, CICIBA, EACROTONAL, LASU and OCPA with a view of harmonizing activities and strategies of action.
As strategies, the various presentations and discussions clearly affirmed ACALAN as the high policy organ mandated by the African Union to promote and develop African languages in all the domains of society, in collaboration with the African Union working languages. ACALAN should therefore coordinate and oversee the activities of the regional centres of culture and languages at continental level.
The Regional Language and Cultural Centres as well as ACALAN’s working structures at grass-root level, the Vehicular Cross-Border Language Commissions and National Language Structures, would carry out language and cultural development activities at national and regional and grass-root level. ACALAN would be a body to validate what is being done at regional levels. It should stand as an Academy giving its support to the centres and organizations of languages and Cultures.
In addition, ACALAN and the language and cultural centres and organization need to collaborate closely in carrying out their respective task. An example of such collaboration is the folktale collection project initiated as part of the African cultural renaissance campaign in which CICIBA, CELHTO, EACROTANAL (if revitalized), and all the other language and cultural centres should participate.
Knowing the place language occupies and the role it plays in development and integration of Africa, the Regional Economic Communities (SADC, EAC, ECOWAS etc.) should actively collaborate and support ACALAN in language and cultural development activities.
Eeach language and cultural centre or organization needs to develop a strategic plan according to its aim and vision and to align it to ACALAN’s vision and missionin the context of the African Renaissance.
After a brief summary of the day’s session, the participants discussed the way forward and came out with the following recommendations:
- ACALAN should compile database of language and cultures in Africa, of experts, researchers, centres and other structures dealing with languages and culture in Africa, in collaboration with the Centres,
- Interactive networking between Regional Language and Cultural Centres for the exchange of information and research results.
- Regular consultation and drafting of agenda for the effective use of African languages in the media;
- Submitting language and culture promotion related matters to the African Union Commission meetings, notably the Summit of the Head of State and Government, the Conference of the Ministers of Culture of the AU and the Pan-African Cultural Congress. This would enable the proposals to be made in a timely manner and to be included in their agenda.
- Involvement of ACALAN in UNESCO’s and any other international organization’s activities dealing with the promotion of languages and cultures.
- Updating the objectives of the Regional Language and Cultural Centres to align their activities to the Language Plan of Action for Africa, the African Cultural Renaissance Charter, the ACALAN Statutes and the Plan of Action of the Year of African Languages (YOAL) in 2006.
- Producing a Strategic Plan which would help each Regional Language and Cultural Centre to successfully implement its activities.
- Creating vital linkages between the Regional Economic Communities and the Regional Language and Cultural Centres. The Executive Secretary of ACALAN would take this issue to the Commissioner for Social Affairs.
- Supporting creative industry in local languages.
- Collecting folktales across Africa in different languages, particularly the Vehicular Cross-Border Languages, for publication.
- Support from the Regional Language and Cultural Centres as regards the appointment, by AU member state, of their National Language Structures as focal points of ACALAN.
- Writing to EAC through the African Union Commission, to invite Tanzania and other EACROTANAL members of the EAC to seek their support for the revival of EACROTANAL. The Department of Social Affairs of the African Union Commission would contact the EAC for the purpose.
- Using African languages in technology