Pan-African Center of Interpretation and Translation

Context and Justification

  • The event of the African Union (AU)
  • Diversity linguistic and cultural of Africa (African multilingualism)
  • EFA
  • The MDG and Fighting Poverty through the sustainable human Development of Africa)
  • The African Academy of Languages (ACALAN
  • The Education Decade in Africa (1997-2006)

From the Organization of the African Unity (OAU) to the African Union (AU), the question of revalorising African Languages in order to make of them real instruments of the African continent’s sustainable development has always been on the agenda. In 1986, Kiswahili, Arabic, French, English, Spanish and Portuguese were recognized as OAU working languages.

For economic, political and socio- cultural concrete reasons, the question of language must be, and in fact is being considered by most of the leadership of the continent. The most urgent and decisive reason for this re-consideration is the palpable failure of education in Africa.

Today, more than ever, it is at the heart of the efforts of African Renaissance in the 21st century launched in 1999 by President Thabo Nbeki. In 2001, under the impulsion of President Alpha O. Konaré, presently President of the AU commission, the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN) came to life in order to promote African languages.

The Interpretation and Translation project participates in the effort building up, enriching the national languages in order to make of them working languages.


To make of African languages true working languages in a multilingual context.

Global Objectives

 Most of the following objectives are from the original document.

  • To encourage the culture of reading by making available in the major African Languages key texts from all over the world (histories, literature, classics as well as volumes on contemporary issues, short stories)
  • To ensure the efficacy in communication and in mutual understanding in crossborder languages in general, and in AU’s working languages in particular
  • To build the African and citizen consciousness through the development of African languages ;
  • To develop tools and methods of translating and interpreting ;
  • To promote inter- language harmonization at continental level
  • To facilitate the creation and production of bilingual texts (African languages – African languages, African languages – European languages and vise versa;
  • To develop linguistic cooperation between specialists in common languages in view of modernizing them ;
  • To promote socio- cultural and socio- economic exchanges between African communities in order to contribute to the realization of AU’s integration and unity.
  • To harmonize (to some extent) varieties of some languages for learning/teaching purposes.
  • Contribute to the world’s literatures.
  • To promote the process of African Integration.

Description of the Center

For the beginning, the Interpreting and Translation Center and the Documentation Center could be located in the same premise as headquarter. But later on, as the business grows other possibilities will be explored. In the sub-regions, the existing centers can be improved and used as required by their missions.

Conditions of realization :

  1. Identification of cross- border languages
  2. Identification of translation and interpreting centers in existing national languages
  3. Analysis of the strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats of these centers in order to build their institutional and organizational capacities

Functions : Short, mid and long terms Production/Training :

  1. Training: teaching/learning the skills/knowledge of interpreting and translation through formal courses given in the centers and/or institutions created for that purpose.
  2. Translation (intra and inter- African/European languages: between African languages in the first place and then between the selected African Languages and the Languages of wider diffusion (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic)
  3. Interpreting: using the skills/knowledge of interpreting in national/international seminar/conferences, using therefore revalorizing African languages.
  4. Conception and production of various texts: the results of these various interpreting and translation activities will be to produce documents which can be used in teaching/learning activities in our languages.

Management structure: will be light, working with the various existing centers of translation and interpreting throughout the continent. From this identification and that of AU’s working African languages (in addition to other cross- border regional languages), a continental capacity can be established, managed from Bamako with the possibility of having branches in the sub regions. The training of this capacity will take place in collaboration with the various ILPAA projects.

The structure in Bamako will play a role of impulsion, coordination and labialization.

The work of translation will be carried out in two phases:

  • European Languages and languages and vise versa
  • African Cross- border languages and African languages

The Translation and Interpreting Center will be managed by a small team including:

  • A Director: responsible for the general coordination of the activities. He could be the Director of the Documentation Center.
  • A pool of multilingual Secretaries
  • A Coordinator for Translation
  • A Coordinator for Interpreting
  • A Coordinator for Training
  • Heads of Centers in each region of the continent

Monitoring – Evaluation

The monitoring –evaluation of the activities of the creation of the translation and interpreting center will be carried out by ILPAA’s Steering Committee under ACALAN supervision. The various reports and field visits will make it possible to ensure the monitoring & evaluation of the activities.

Approach / Strategies

Partnership: at national, continental and international levels with public and private institutions involved in translation and interpreting in general and African languages in particular. A list of names will be made available after a situational analysis in each sub-region. It will be based on:

  1. Dialogue/collaboration: that will be encouraged between the various institutions both at national, continental and International levels.
  2. Capacity building: of all the involved partners to make sure that they are well equipped to carry out the responsibilities they endowed with. Experienced institutions will be identified to play their leadership role.
  3. Synergy of actions: activities will be designed and carried out to pool and share the various experiences in interpreting and translating.

Some partners:

  1. CASAS
  2. West African Linguistic Society (WALS)
  3. Association of East African Languages
  4. Language Association of Southern Africa
  7. Summer Institute in Linguistic (SIL)
  8. Hamed Baba Institute in Timbuktu
  9. FIT
  10. RIFAL and RILAC (Réseau International des Langues Africaines et Créoles)
  11. WALA (West African Archives, documentary linguistics)
  12. Other Translation and Interpretation Centres in Africa and in the world (UK, Canada, Belgium, USA)
  13. Moi and Maseno Universities ( in Kenya)
  14. The International Academy of Linguistic Law