Libraries were well represented at the African Regional Forum for Sustainable Development on 24-27 February. Through formal sessions, intense advocacy and a successful side-event, library speakers underlined the message that libraries – and access to information – are essential for development.

The first of the five planned regional forums for sustainable development took place at the end of February in Victoria Falls Town, Zimbabwe. With UN officials, government representatives, and experts and activists from across civil society, it offered a great opportunity to reflect on Africa’s progress towards achieving the SDGs, and to discuss how to accelerate positive change.

2020 is a particularly significant year for these efforts. It is five years since the agreement of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and only ten years remain to reach them. The UN itself has talked of a Decade of Delivery, with a strong focus on transformative actions which can accelerate success.

Libraries – and the equitable access to information they support – are an excellent example. Information – including access to it and the ability to use it – plays a vital role in success in so many other policies. This is as much the case in Africa as anywhere else.

Speakers at IFLA-Library-Aid Africa Side Event: (l-r) Shadreck Ndinde, Deborah Brown, Victoria Okojie, Tinashe Kuzuwazuwa, Kepi Madumo, Winny Nekesa, Damilare Oyedele  ​In order to share this message, IFLA sent a strong delegation to the meeting, with librarians from across Africa, including former IFLA Board Member Victoria Okojie, and with the welcome support of the National Librarian of South Africa, Mr Kepi Madumo. Other members of the IFLA team included Tinashe Kuzuwazuwa and Shadreck Ndinde (Zimbabwe), Winny Nekesa (Uganda) and Damilare Oyedele (Nigeria).

During formal sessions and in informal discussions with other participants, they were able to build understanding and support for libraries as partners for development, making new connections which should help our institutions play a more central role in national policy and planning.

In particular, IFLA hosted a side-event, alongside Library Aid Africa, in order to demonstrate how information can make a difference, at all levels, and across the SDGs.

An engaged audience welcomed the examples, and highlighted in particular how libraries could help vulnerable populations, promote local content, and help ensure that the digital transition benefits all.  

We look forward to following up with contacts, and working to make libraries ever more central to development planning and policy in Africa and globally.

Read the report from the side-event here. Find out more about IFLA’s work on libraries and development.