The one-week long celebration of the African Languages Week, was launched in July 2022 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso by the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN-AU) to empower African languages and promote their use in all domains of society. The African Languages Week, which is celebrated annually from January 24 to 30 also aimed at reflecting on African languages and their development as factor of peace, prosperity and integration in Africa.
As a follow up from the Ouagadougou meeting, a coordinating committee was set up to plan for the implementation of various programs for the week. The Committee code named, “The African Languages Week Coordination Committee” (ALWCC) which is headed by Ms. Margaret Nankinga from Uganda has been organizing planning and coordinating meetings in order to effectively prepare for the commemoration of the week.
In the preparatory and orientation meeting of the committee organized virtually by ACALAN on Thursday 21st July, 2022, to orientate members and present them the terms of reference, Prof. Marcel Diki Kidiri, a member of the Assembly of Academicians of ACALAN, who chaired the meeting, in his opening address, called on the committee members to initiate activities that will stimulate readership of literature in African languages and sensitize the general public on their importance. He also urged members to mobilize Africans across the continent and the diaspora to embrace their languages and use them for development. He lauded the African Union for adopting Kiswahili as a working language of the African Union and a language of wider communication in Africa.
The Chairperson of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee, Ms. Margaret Nankinga, in her response called on members of the committee to make efforts that will ensure the use of African languages as an effective factor of integration for sustainable peace and development in Africa.
She further said that African languages are a mobilizing tool for development and are a storage of indigenous knowledge, therefore leaving them out of development plans for the continent is tantamount to hindering and postponing Africa’s development.
Ms. Nankinga urged the committee members to work hard to make the 2023 edition of the African Languages Week a bigger and successful one.
While presenting the terms and references to the committee members during this virtual meeting, Dr Babajide Ojo Johnson, the Senior Program and Project Officer of ACALAN urged for more dynamism for the development and promotion of African languages across the African continent and in the Diaspora. He therefore called on the committee members to continue their active participation in the activities of the committee noting that members were selected on the basis of their works and commitments on the development of African languages.
Dr. Ojo promised that ACALAN, which is the specialized language institution of the African Union, is determined to support in all aspects towards the fulfilment of the committee’s mandate.
As part of the recommendations of this meeting, the theme of the 2023 African Languages Week (ALW) was suggested to be: “African Languages for Sustainable Food Security, Cultural and Socio-economic Development for the Africa We Want” reflecting on the African Union’s theme for the year. In the same vein, the slogan for the year 2023 was set as: “What We Speak and What We Eat Makes Africa Great.” this is in line with the AU theme for 2022 which is, “Strengthening Resilience in Nutrition and Food Security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-Food Systems, Health and Social Protection Systems for the Acceleration of Human, Social and Economic Capital Development.”
The ALWCC also identified the following sub-themes for the 2023 edition of the African Languages Week:
- African languages and nutrition for better education,
- African languages and mass mobilization for food security
- African languages for the cultural food economy.
All the recommendations were succinctly reviewed during the virtual planning meeting of the committee on Friday, 26 August, 2022.
During the meeting, members formed three sub-committees and elected team leaders.
The three sub-committees are:
- Activities and Key Messages sub-committee
- Resource Mobilization sub-committee
- Communications sub-committee.
Members of Activities and Key Messages sub-committee are:
- Prof. Anita Marie Diop of the United States of America who represents the Diaspora was nominated to lead Activities and Key Message sub-committee,
- Dr Alain Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, Deputy Coordinator of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee
- Gen. Ishola Williams of Nigeria;
- Prof Bouchra Bouklata of Morocco; and member of the ACALAN Modern Arabic Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission.
- Mrs Nene Gueye of Senegal, Senior Program Officer for African Languages of the African Union Centre for Linguistic and Historical Studies by Oral Tradition (CELHTO).
Members of the Resource Mobilization sub-committee are:
- Mr. John Rusimbi of Rwanda, President of the Pan-African Writers’ Association; and leader of this sub-committee;
- Ms. Margaret Nankinga of Uganda, Cordinator of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee and the ACALAN Luganda Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission; and,
- Mr. Mamudou Trawally of The Gambia, member of ACALAN’s Soninke Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;.
Members of Communications sub-committee are:
- Dr. Hamisi Babusa of Kenya, leader of the Communications sub Committee;
- Mr. Mijiyawa Mekano of Togo and Member of the ACALAN Hausa Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Prince Cletus Ilobanafor of Nigeria;
- Mrs. Mmaserame David of Botswaana and Secretary of the ACALAN Setswana Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Ms. Nutifafa Feyi of Ghana and member of the ACALAN Ewe Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Mr. Achille Yaya of Benin; and
vii. Dr. Eyasu Hailu Tamene of Ethiopia.
Part of the activities suggested for the sub-theme of 'African Languages and Nutrition for Better Education' are:
- Reading camps and reading competitions;
- a book per child campaign;
- mobilizing schools for better nutrition campaigns;
- community breakfasts for local schools/children;
- movies, songs on food culture in Africa and others.
The activities identified for the sub-theme of 'African Languages and Mass Mobilization for Food Security' are:
- African languages media campaigns, programs, features and supplements on food security;
- traditional foods and teachings;
- Africa cultural food festival;
- food as medicine;
- movies/songs mobilizing Africa on food security and food culture in Africa;
- call to action for African governments and many others.
The activities identified for the sub-theme of 'African Languages and Cultural food Economy' are:
- Cultural food fetes/festival;
- children's movie/cartoons in African languages on cultural food across Africa; and,
- African food culture awareness creation for tolerance.
At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the sub-committees will convene on Friday, 2nd September to review and concretize the proposed activities.
The following are the members of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee:
- Ms. Margaret Nankinga - Uganda Coordinator of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee, also Cordinator of ACALAN’s Luganda/Lusoga/Lugwere Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Dr. Tiga Alain Ouedraogo - Burkina Faso, Deputy Coordinator of the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee, also member of ACALAN’s Songhay Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Mrs. Nene Gueye of Senegal, Senior Program Officer for African Languages of the African Union’s Centre for Linguistic and Historical Studies by Oral Tradition (CELHTO).
- Mr. John Rusimbi - Rwanda, President of the Pan-African Writers’ Association; and leader of the Resource Mobilization sub-committee;
- Mr. Anicet Allamad Jimgaye – Chad, President of the Pan-African Youth Organization for the Promotion of African Integration (OPAJPIA);
- Mr. Boukhenoufa Tahar, Algeria, staff of and representing the High Commissioner for Amazighity,(Haut Commissariat à l’Amazighité HCA);
vii. Prof. Bouchra Bouklata – Morocco, member of ACALAN’s Mordern Arabic Commission;
viii. Dr. Hamisi Babusa –Lecturer of Kiswahili, Language Education, Educational Technology and Kiswahili Media Studies; Kenyata University, Kenya.
- Ms. Rosyna Mapendo – Journalist, Democratic Republic of Congo;
- Mrs. Mmaserame David – Botswana, Secretary of the ACALAN Setswana Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
- Dr Sibongile Masuku, Lecturer Museum and Heritage Studies at Sol Plaatje University - South Africa;
xii. Prince Cletus Ilobanafor, CEO, CEOAFRICA media group – Nigeria;
xiii. Ms. Francina Nutifafa Feyi – Ghana, member of the ACALAN Ewe Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
xiv. Mr. Mamudou Trawally – Gambia, member of ACALAN’s Soninke Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission;
xv. Dr. Eyasu Hailu Tamene – Ethiopia, Assistant Prof. of Ethiopian Sign Language and Deaf Studies at Addis Ababa University;
xvi. Mr. Yaya Coami Achille – Benin, Conference Interpreter;
xvii. General Ishola Williams – Nigeria, retired General of the Nigerian Army;
- M. Maurin Jonathan Mobassi alias Djoson Philosophe, Maurin Jonathan MOBASSI alias Djoson Philosophie, Musician (lead vocalist) - Rep of Congo;
xix. Mr. Karamo Jammeh, Specialist of NKO - Sweden;
xx. Prof. Anita Marie Diop, Executive Director, African Roots and Heritage Foundation -Detroit, Michigan USA; and
xxi. Mr. Mijiyawa Mekano, member of ACALAN’s Hausa Vehicular Cross-border Language Commission – Togo.
In his communication to the committee, the Executive Secretary of ACALAN, Dr Lang Fafa Dampha thanked Prof Marcel Diki Kidiri, Dr Ojo Babajide Johnson and the Committee members for their active participation and commitment to the African Languages Week Coordinating Committee’s preparations in particular and to the course of the development and promotion of African languages in general.