WIPO Deputy Secretary General Sylvie Forbin (3rd from left) with President of ABADCAM Alim Garga (third from right)Around the world, libraries are at the heart of education institutions, giving access to the materials students and teachers need. This role is as crucial in Africa as elsewhere, given that for many, access to books and other materials may otherwise be impossible. In order to fulfil this mission, Africa’s libraries need balanced intellectual property rules.


On 21-22 November in Yaoundé, Cameroon, a team of librarians from the Cameroonian Association of Librarians, Archivists and Documentalists took this message to a meeting of culture ministers from across Africa, organised by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Led by the President of the Association, Alim Garga, they engaged in discussions, and made the case for libraries to ministers.


While supporting the importance of developing truly local content, they stressed that focusing purely on creating markets or licences would come at the expense of learning. Education and research in Africa would, in the long run, benefit more from universal literacy and giving more people the chance to study and innovate. Libraries are an essential part of the chain, but cannot do their job if materials are unaffordable, or if there are excessively strict rules on their use.


Thanks to their work, the final conclusions of the meeting underlined the need to improve legislation for libraries, and given them a full role in discussions around promoting books and reading nationally. As a highlight, the Chadian Minister used his closing speech to underline his own support for libraries, and to encourage others to do the same.