Saturday, July 18, 2015

More on book donations to Africa

My previous post on "Linguistic imbalance in book donations to Africa" elicited a reply from Hans Zell, who informed me of work he and Raphaël Thierry have done on a two part study under the collective title "Book donation programmes for Africa: Time for a reappraisal? Two perspectives," which is to be published later this year in African Research & Documentation (No. 127, 2015). Pre-publication versions are available on
I had not been aware of this work, which addresses a real gap in research on book donations to Africa and their impact. From a quick perusal it certainly seems that both parts go into considerable depth, including on aspects of the languages of books donated to Africa, and with reference to a large number of programs. If you are interested in the subject of book donations to Africa, add these to your reading list.

Addendum (20 July 20)

Here is the full citation for the study in Madagascar mentioned in the previous posting:
In responding to my blog posting, Laurence Hugues called my attention to a recent publication on e-books to Africa:
Both of the above mention the issue of the language(s) of publication of the books or e-books donated to Africa, and both were cited and discussed by Hans Zell and Raphaël Thierry in their respective articles.

One interesting subject touched on by all of the above is that of a new "charter" or set of agreed-upon standards and best practices for book donations (not just limited to Africa). A "Charte de Don des Livres" was created in 2005 by several organizations including UNESCO, but never translated (as far as I can find) into English. That document did not specifically mention languages at all, although it does recommend (Article 9) that book donations take into account the cultural identities of recipient communities.

In researching my original posting on the "linguistic imbalance" of book donations to Africa, I came across an article by the executive director of Books for Africa, which argues the case for donating English-language (not African language) materials:
There is clearly a range of opinions and experience regarding best practices, so it does seem that the time is ripe for a broader dialogue to reappraise book donations to multilingual Africa, taking into account languages (linguistic "bibliodiversity"), the roles of national publishing and local writers, diverse community interests, evolving digital technologies, and other factors. The outcome could be some agreed upon set of guidelines for future book donations and foreign support for development of reading materials.

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