On the 25th February 2022, the IFLA Sub-Saharan Africa Regional Division Committee (IFLA SSA RDC) organised a Panel Discussion as a side event in the context of the UN Africa Regional Forum for Sustainable Development, held in Kigali, Rwanda. The discussion focused on the theme: Building forward better: African library partnerships for inclusive information and education towards Agendas 2030 and 2063. 

The Panel Discussion attracted more than 200 people online from Burundi, Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, Poland, South Africa, Rwanda, and Uganda.

In her introductory remarks, Dr Victoria Okojie, the moderator of the event, remarked on the role of libraries:

“Libraries are trusted providers of information, and spaces for research, skills formation, and community development, contributing to progress across the SDGs, as highlighted by the recent UN Public Service Award to the Ghana Library Service. They bring unique contributions to partnerships.”

She further noted IFLA’s role in uniting a global library field empowering literate, informed and participatory societies. IFLA’s focus on the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) as a framework for structuring and maximizing the positive impact of libraries, builds both awareness and partnerships. The IFLA SSA RDC plays a vital role in building capacity for learning and defining regional actions and local advocacy priorities to respond to Africa’s needs, with the SDGs a key part of this work.

The event featured a panel of five speakers from within and outside the library field:

  1. Prof. Ndabaga Eugene- Rwanda, Associate Professor of Education at University of Rwanda College of Education
  2. Dr Albert Byamugisha- Uganda, Head of the SDG Secretariat and Senior Technical Adviser on SDGs at the Office of the Prime minister in Kampala, Uganda
  3. Dr Helena Asamooah Hassan- Ghana, Executive Director of the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA)
  4. Mr Mandla Ntombela- South Africa, Chief Executive Officer/Director of the South African Library for the Blind (SALB)
  5. Ms. Beata Nyirabahizi- Rwanda, Ag. Director of Rwanda National Library Services Unit

The panelists identified development challenges created or intensified by COVID-19 and also explored how partnerships involving libraries could provide innovative, effective, and efficient responses.

Sharing his insights and lessons on the efforts made by the government of Uganda in the attainment of AU Agenda 2063, Dr Byamugisha said:

“The two agendas were adopted and since then the government of Uganda has participated in implementing both, while mapping them with the National development agenda and vision 2040. The government is collaborating with the private sector, academia, civil society and the National Library of Uganda with an aim of leaving no one behind.”

On the issue of how libraries support government in the attainment of Agendas 2030 and 2063, Helena Asamoah-Hassan cited examples of libraries’ key support and contributions during COVID-19: Namibian libraries prioritized cleanliness and sanitization along with programming to support education and learning (Goals 4 & 8).  She also observed that, through AfLIA (African Federation of Library Associations & Institutions), the Ghana Library in partnership with the Commonwealth of Learning enabled the reskilling of its population.

Providing academic insights, Prof Eugene Ndabaga noted that libraries play a key role in bridging the persistent gap that arises in our societies. The SDGs and other development agendas can best be achieved by sharing expertise and by making unique resources available -and this happens, for example, when academics and librarians work together toward the same objective. He went on to share that any development without information or data, is no development and that Digital Libraries are the language of today and the future. As academics are busy researching and teaching, librarians ensure what is to be taught is up to date.

Sharing experiences of working with the blind, Mandla Ntombela emphasized information inclusivity. He reminded us that information is for all, quality education is for all, and therefore, access to information is also for all. He challenged policy makers to ensure inclusivity is considered and integrated systematically into decision-making.

Using examples from Rwanda, Beata Nyirabahizi shared success stories from Rwanda’s contribution towards the attainment of Agendas 2030 and 2063 by first of all acknowledging the political will of the Rwandan government. As a librarian, she shared her experiences of:

  • efforts to ensure the availability of Rwanda Cultural Heritage Academy that supports the two agendas
  • the establishment of Kigali Public Library (KPL)
  • a forum of community librarians promoting mutual learning within communities
  • how information literacy skills impacted particularly adult literacy learning
  • guaranteeing information provision that meets the needs of the communities
  • reading promotion and competitions and more

Watch the webinar again on IFLA’s YouTube channel!