At the 5th African Youth SDGs Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, libraries were actively present through participation in major sessions to share evidence of libraries’ work in contributing to the SDGs. We are grateful to Damilare Oyedele for this report. This project was made possible thanks to a grant from Stichting IFLA Global Libraries.

The library team at the Africa Youth SDGs Forum

Libraries have continuously evolved over the years to provide services to the community we serve. One key way of doing this is by supporting entrepreneurship development, in new and innovative ways. This is certainly the case in Africa, as was underlined through IFLA participation at the Africa Youth SDGs Summit in Lusaka, Zambia on 12-16 August. 

In particular, IFLA hosted a side-event, under the title Libraries as Catalysts for Youth Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Africa

The side event was moderated by Damilare Oyedele, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Library Aid Africa, with speakers Mrs Mutinta Nabuyanda, President, Library and Information Association of Zambia, Mr Ernest Mafuta, Chair of the Internet Society Affordable Internet Access Special Interest Group, and Mrs Pauline Namulomba Nchemba, Vice-President, Library and Information Association of Zambia.

At the event, the speakers shared evidence and practical approaches of how libraries are catalysts for youth innovation and entrepreneurship. In particular, they highlighted the following key points

  • Libraries are spaces for innovation co-creation: Libraries provide a space for young people to connect and share ideas to co-create entrepreneurial solutions through access to resources. 
  • Libraries provide entrepreneurial skills development: community needs are evolving, and libraries are working to respond, helping youth in particular to develop skills for their livelihoods, as well as providing access to internet facilities, 3D printers, computers etc. Young people in Zambia who have benefitted from programming shared testimonials on the impact of libraries. Examples of entrepreneurship-relevant training include photography, digital media, poetry, how to use Microsoft products and services, robotics classes, 3D printing, among others. These skills have positively impacted participants and positioned them to get jobs and be financially independent. 
  • Digital inclusion is at the heart of Libraries serving as a community hub for digital skills development: An essential part of library services is providing internet access and digital skills development for young people. Discussions covered shared experiences, as well as approaches by The Internet Society Foundation, which exists to support the positive difference the Internet can make to people everywhere. This underlined an area of strong cross-over between the work of the Foundation and IFLA in providing equitable access to the Internet and resources to empower young people. 

Overall, it was clear that libraries have essential roles as spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship development, with the side-event and broader participation serving to showcase the existing roles and impact of libraries as catalysts for youth innovation and entrepreneurship in African countries.

The event also identified the following key messages for continuous improvement: 

  • Libraries should invest in ongoing partnerships and networking at all levels 
  • Libraries should revamp existing libraries and empower them with digital infrastructure and internet access 
  • Libraries should carry on re-inventing themselves, keep up with modern trends, and prioritise youth-friendly services 
  • Services in the library need to be tailored to the needs of local communities. 

IFLA’s participation in the African Youth SDGs Summit was made possible thanks to a grant from Stichting IFLA Global Libraries. 

You can also read about the pre-Summit workshop with library students and new professionals in our news story.