Tag Archives: Africa

The Power of the Narrative: African World Heritage Day

[Today] there is a growing understanding that human diversity is both the reality that makes dialogue necessary, and the very basis for that dialogue… We recognize that we are the products of many cultures, traditions and memories; that mutual respect allows us to study and learn from other cultures; and that we gain strength by combining the foreign with the familiar.

Kofi Annan (Secretary-General of the United Nations, 1997-2006)


The goal of preserving world heritage – that is, heritage deemed to be of “outstanding universal value” – is to ensure a legacy from the past is passed on to future generations. This legacy belongs to all humankind, it is quite literally the heritage of the world.

Through international cooperation for world heritage preservation, we are able to access and explore the most outstanding natural, cultural, and mixed sites offered by each country around the world. It is a doorway to learning about peoples’ values, histories, cross-border exchanges, and riches of natural and cultural diversity.

It is through learning about and celebrating this diversity that mutual respect grows.

African World Heritage Day

African World Heritage Day on 5 May is an opportunity for people around the world, and particularly Africans and those of African descent, to celebrate Africa’s vibrant and unique cultural and natural heritage.

Unfortunately, while African heritage is underrepresented on the World Heritage List (only 12% of all sites), it features disproportionally highly on the List of World Heritage in Danger (39% of all sites in danger).  Civil unrest and instability, uncontrolled development, lack of investment in its safeguarding, and threats of climate change are all factors in the endangerment of world heritage in this region.

As the Ngorongoro Declaration (2016) affirms, safeguarding African World Heritage is a central driver for sustainable development, and so there is an urgent need to build capacity for heritage conservation and management in the region.

This will take international cooperation, overwriting the long-standing effects of colonial inequalities in heritage conservation, and ensuring that a narrative of diversity, dignity, and solidarity is established.

More than World Heritage

Yet maintaining a dialogue on cultural diversity takes more than the preservation of heritage sites. Looking to the historical record and personal accounts can bring these sites to life, by describing their value to the people and societies who created and lived in these places, often in their own words.

There is much power to be found in stories, archives, and records. They help us recognise that we are the “products of many cultures, traditions and memories” – they give context to the heritage of the world. UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme promotes the preservation of, and access to, documentary heritage, which are key resources for telling these stories.

In Africa, tapping into the power of these resources can be a central part in rewriting the narrative of the region’s cultural heritage, raising awareness of its rich traditions, building pride in one’s cultural identity, and educating on the value of cultural diversity.

Through this, heritage can spark a dialogue of mutual respect, which hopefully will play a role in counteracting the threats of extremism, helping to heal inequalities, and contributing to sustainable development.

Manuscripts of the Sahel

Let’s explore an example of the power of the narrative in this context.

In early 2020, IFLA was represented at an international consultation on documentary heritage in the Sahel, organised by UNESCO and held in the Malian capital, Bamako.

The meeting aimed to contribute to strengthening the preservation, accessibility and enhancement of ancient manuscripts from the Sahel region, in order to “improve universal access to knowledge on the written history of Africa”. Read more about this event here.

Containing a range of topics from mathematics to science, philosophy, grammar and theology, the manuscripts comprise a narrative that might not be widely known – depicting this region as a hub for knowledge exchange and intercultural discussion, and providing a rich African history of the written word.

Over the past years, manuscripts in the Sahel region have been notoriously targeted for destruction by those trying to silence this narrative. This destruction was mirrored in the context of built heritage with the targeted destruction of mausoleums in Timbuktu in 2012.

However, preserving and utilising the Sahelian ancient manuscripts to promote public access to the information and knowledge contained within can strengthen national cohesion, tolerance and dialogue. Experts maintain that the “protection, accessibility and promotion of ancient manuscripts can serve as a basis for building just, inclusive and peaceful societies in the Sahel”.

IFLA continues to support this project, and those who are working for the preservation of documentary heritage.


Ensuring the continuity of this shared narrative has the power to make a positive difference in a region that still faces many challenges.

Strengthening the preservation, accessibility and enhancement of such examples of heritage can not only strengthen respect for built heritage, it can bring forgotten pieces of history back to life – sparking dialogue, countering preconceived notions, and promoting respect.

On this African World Heritage Day, let’s celebrate the power of the narrative.

7 out of 10: the ARIPO Model Copyright Law

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has released its model copyright law.

ARIPO it aims to support the work of intellectual property (IP) teams across Africa, through both country-specific capacity building, and regional-level reports and guidance.

Its 19 Member States come primarily from English-speaking Africa (with some exceptions), and will now doubtless be encouraged to refer to the Model Law in reflecting on their own reforms.

This means that the document has a potentially powerful impact. As such, it is worth being clear about its strengths, weaknesses, and silences, from a library point of view. Library associations and others advocating for better laws for libraries should be aware of where the Model Law will, or will not help.

This blog therefore explores the positives, the negatives, and the holes in the Model Law. All references to Articles are to the Model Law, unless stated otherwise).


The Good

Fair Dealing: in the first Article of the chapter on exceptions and limitations (Article 18), the Model Law suggests that uses which constitute fair dealing, for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review, or the reporting of current events should be permissible (Article 18(1)). It then offers a set of criteria for judging the fairness of this dealing – the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the protected work (how original is it?), the amount of the work used, and the effect of the use on the market (Article 18(3)).

This is a positive step, giving valuable flexibility to libraries and other users in making reasonable uses of works. However, it if course remains less open than fair use exceptions, which do not have closed list of accepted purposes. If the list was to be made open (for example by adding a ‘such as’ before the list of purposes), it would offer an even better model.

Inclusion of Unpublished Works: too often, copyright exceptions only apply to works which have been formally published. This can make the work of libraries and archives in dealing with unpublished works more complicated. The Model Law underlines that the fact of being unpublished does not prevent uses under fair dealing (Article 18(4)).

A Digitally-Reading Education Exception: the Model Law makes it clear that it is possible to make uses of copyrighted works for education purposes via electronic networks, and not just in analogue form (Article 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b)).

Interestingly, the only area where the exception can be cancelled out by a licence is for in-person teaching (Article 21(1)(c)(iii)). This is clearly not ideal, given that the Article is, anyway, covered by the rule that uses under exceptions should not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work.

A Technologically Neutral Definition of Copying: too often, national laws suggest that copies can only be made through a specific technology, such as photocopying. The Model Law has the merit of underlining that it is possible to make reproductions through any format (Article 2).

Protection of the Public Domain: the Model Law includes standard provisions on facts, data, news and political speeches not being protected by copyright, but is clear that this also applies to laws, court judgements and other administrative texts are also in the public (Article 6). Furthermore, there is an explicit definition of the public domain, which allows the possibility for authors to renounce their rights. This is positive, given the tendency in some countries to create unwaivable rights which undermine initiatives such as Creative Commons (Article 35).

No Term Extension: the Model Law does not take the opportunity too often used elsewhere (and in spite of the evidence) to go beyond protection lasting for the lifetime of the author plus fifty years. This is a useful model to use elsewhere.

Inclusion of Museums: the provisions on library copying also apply to archives and museums. This is a positive, given the challenges identified in WIPO work around museums facing different conditions and rules to other heritage institutions.


The Bad

Overall, the Model Law provides a relatively good example for governments. However, there are some weaknesses which libraries should look to avoid replicating in their own national legislation. The below suggestions are in addition to the encouragement to adopt fair use above.

Vague Provisions on Circumventing Technological Protection Measures: in line with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the Model Law underlines that ‘effective’ technological protection measures should themselves be protected by law. In other countries, there then follows a guarantee that users should be still be allowed to carry out permitted acts (i.e. under exceptions). However, the ARIPO Model Law only provides that governments may make exceptions. This is far too weak at a time that libraries are acquiring a growing share of collections in digital form (Article 40(4) ad 45(3)).

No Lending Exception: the Model Law includes public lending as one of the uses over which a rightholder should have exclusive rights. This is not something required by the Berne Convention itself (which only covers rental). This risks obliging libraries to make payments or seek authorisation for lending (over and above what they have paid to acquire books in the first place). This risks seriously damaging libraries’ ability to promote literacy and a love of books (Article 7(1)(k).

Restrictions on Preservation Copying: while the Model Law does (commendably) not limit the technology used to make copies, the fact that it only talks about ‘a’ copy poses to digitisation efforts (Article 23(3)). In line with recent EU reforms, it would be better to talk about taking copies in the quantity necessary to achieve the goal.

Furthermore, the Model Law also includes the obligation to see if a commercially available copy is available before taking such a copy. This risks introducing an unhelpful administrative burden, and may not be practicable. Given that it is usually cheaper to buy a copy than digitise and preserve, it would be better to leave the choice between copying and buying to libraries, rather than enforcing it through law (also Article 23(3)).

Imposing Commercial Availability Checks for Marrakesh Copying: The Marrakesh Treaty made an important breakthrough by removing copyright-related barriers to making and sharing accessible format copies of books for people with print disabilities. It did however leave the possibility for Member States to impose restrictions though, in the form of an optional remuneration requirement, or the obligation to check if an accessible format copy is not already available on the market before making or sharing one (Marrakesh Treaty, Articles 4(4) and 4(5)).

Libraries have argued strongly against making use of either of these possibilities, given the financial and administrative cost. However, the Model Law does suggest that there should be a check on commercial availability. Given the lack of information about which books are available where, and in what formats, such a requirement risks only leading to uncertainty.

Lack of Provisions on Collective Management: the Model Law is surprisingly thin on guidance about the regulation of collective management organisations (Article 57), while at the same time including provisions on extended collective licencing (Article 38). While it is clear that well-managed collecting societies can facilitate the work of libraries when carrying out uses that fall outside of exceptions, it is essential that these are run in a transparent and accountable way in order to be legitimate.

The Model Law says very little about the need for CMOs to be independent of government (in order to avoid conflicts of interest in the operation of copyright offices), to publish information about how much they are collecting and paying out, or to be representative of rightholders and rights when offering licences. At a time when multiple governments are needing to act to force better governance in this field, the vagueness of the Model Law is troubling.

Over-Application of the Three-Step Text: The Berne Convention only applies the three-step test (that a use needs to be a certain specific case, not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work, and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate rights of rightholders) only to exceptions to the reproduction right (Article 9(2), Berne Convention). However, the Model Law applies this to all exceptions, leading to potentially unhelpful debates about what is and is not possible (Article 18(2))

Attribution Obligations: on various occasions (Articles 18(1), 21(2), 22, 23(2), 24(1), 26(3)), the Model Law suggests that use can only be made under exceptions if there is attribution. However, this may not always be possible. Laws elsewhere recognise this possibility to make uses without attribution when this is not practicable. However, the Model Law does not, creating uncertainty for users who do not know the author of the work they are using.

Licence Override for Document Supply: as mentioned above, the exception allowing for educational uses of works in face-to-face teaching can be disapplied when a licence is available. This also applies to situations when libraries are making copies for the private use of users. Where a collective management organisation argues that it can offer licences, this could do a lot of damage to document supply activities (Article 23(2)(a)(iii).

Block on Parallel Importation: in the context of WIPO, libraries have argued that even when there is a domestic rightholder with the right to distribute a work nationally, it should be possible for libraries to make acquisitions across borders. This can be essential in order to meet requests for specific versions of works, or, for example, when the domestic rightholder is not active. The Model Law gives the rightholder the exclusive right to import works, without exceptions (Article 7(1)(j)).

Limits on Caricature, Pastiche and Parody: the Model Law does include welcome exceptions to economic rights (such as reproduction) for review and critic. However, the exception for caricature, pastiche and parody (Article 30) only applies to moral rights, and not to economic rights. As such, it may make it possible to restrict such activities on other grounds.


The Missing

The Model Law, while comprehensive, does not cover a number of areas which, from a library point of view, would be desirable in any national copyright law.

Orphan and Out-of-Commerce Works: libraries hold many works which are no longer commercially available, but are still in copyright. As such, there are significant restrictions on how far they can give access. This is particularly difficult when a work is orphaned (i.e. it isn’t possible to identify or local rightholders). More and more countries are introducing provisions allowing libraries to permit use of such works, subject to various conditions. The Model Law does not even reference these issues.

Text and Data Mining: legal uncertainty about the possibility for libraries to allow for text and data mining of works in their collections has lead a number of countries to introduce explicit exceptions. There is nothing about this in the ARIPO Model Law, meaning that there is continued uncertainty.

Limited Exceptions for People with Disabilities: while the Model Law does copy provisions from the Marrakesh Treaty for people with print disabilities, it does not take the opportunity (foreseen in the Marrakesh Treaty) to apply similar rules for people with other disabilities (such as sub-titling for people experiencing deafness). Many countries do allow copying without restrictions on the type of disability – it is a shame that this possibility has not been included in the Model Law.

Contract Override: the Model Law is silent on the issue of contract override – i.e. the possibility for exceptions and limitations to be cancelled out by the terms of a licence. In a growing number of countries, there are conscious steps to prevent this from happening, and so defend user rights. National governments should introduce broad provisions ensuring the pre-emption of any contract terms which do undermine exceptions.

Cross-Border: the Model Law only refers to cross-border uses in the case of the provisions on sharing accessible format copies of works for people with print disabilities. There is nothing anywhere else which would allow for the cross-border application of exceptions.

This is perhaps an unfair criticism of course – it is only through international law making that there can be legal certainty for cross-border uses. ARIPO itself could act, but the most effective solution would need to come from WIPO itself. IFLA of course continues to engage to achieve this.



Overall, the ARIPO Model Law does cover a number of key points which help libraries do their job, in particular relatively flexible fair dealing provisions. However, there remain a number of flaws, both specifically (lending rights, limitations on preservation), and cross-cutting ones (contract override).

Governments should therefore not look to adopt the Model Law wholesale, but rather work with their library associations to ensure that they have rules that truly support the public interest missions of libraries. Overall, the Model Laws gets a 7 out of 10.

Preserving and Promoting the Igbo Language in Libraries

2019 is the International Year of Indigenous Languages. IFLA has been celebrating and promoting the year, sharing stories of libraries from all over the world, which are contributing to the safeguarding and promotion of indigenous languages and cultures.

We have been in Canada, where libraries are collecting and preserving historical and culturally diverse records to ensure that indigenous groups benefit and see themselves reflected in the work of libraries. From there we went to the border-area of Germany and Denmark, where we learned how the Danish library in Germany provides access to literature in the mother language. From Germany to Geneva – Wend Wendland, Director of WIPO Traditional Knowledge Division, explained more about the relationship between copy right and traditional knowledge.

The next stop in our trip around the world is in Nigeria. Nkechi Sabina Udeze, Acting Director of Anambra State Library Board and Amaka Florence Nwofor, Senior Lecturer of Library and Information Science at Nnamdi Azikiwe University give us an insight into how they are working to preserve and promote the Igbo language in Nigeria.

Preserving the Igbo Language

The project by Anambra State Library (ANSLB) was born out of UNESCO’s 2016 warning that the Igbo language could become extinct by 2025, and following its participation in the Cultural Heritage contest run by the African Library & Information Associations & Institutions (AfLIA).

To preserve and promote the Igbo language, in 2018 the library created a cultural heritage corner in the headquarters of the Board with collected books and artifacts from communities through members of the Board.

Librarian protecting Igbo heritage, NigeriaThe collection grew through strong advocacy and documented oral history records from students of the department of LIS, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka. These records were made available by the lecturer leading on teaching Oral Tradition in the Department, Mrs Amaka Nwofor.

The ANSLB’s activities and programmes include presentations of Igbo language and culture such as drama, folklore, poetry, songs, reading, proverbs and riddles. The library preserves the Igbo language through engaging the younger generation to speak the Igbo language, and to make use of the books and electronic information resources.

The Library visits local communities, organises activities and programmes, and attends general meeting of Traditional Rulers. These Rulers have submitted historical records of their towns and advised others on how to do the same and make sure that their town’s history is preserved.

The Anambra State Broadcasting Station also hosts a radio show by the Acting Director of the ANSLB, Nkechi Udeze PhD. In her show she stresses that historical records should be translated into the Igbo language, while complementary copies and electronic versions should be brought to the cultural heritage corner of the ANSLB for preservation, documentation and dissemination.

The radio show has received great feedback, and listeners are commending this innovation geared towards checking the extinction of the endangered language and culture. As a result of this laudable project, more members of the communities are donating books and artifacts to support the preservation of the Igbo language and culture.

Making Progress: Welcome Vote in South African Parliament on Copyright for Libraries

After years of discussion, the South African copyright amendment Bill was adopted by the South African National Assembly on 5 November. The process is not completely over, as the Bill will now be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence, which is likely to happen early 2019.

As it currently stands, there are very positive provisions for libraries and other cultural heritage institutions, some of which are particularly positive. There are significant improvements such as the adoption of fair use, strong exceptions and limitations for libraries, archives, museums, galleries and educational institutions, provisions on Marrakesh and orphan works and a national open access policy.

These very positive results would not have been possible without the constant advocacy work by many librarians in the country, among which Denise Nicholson, expert advisor of the Copyright and Other Legal Matters Committee at IFLA. They engage with decision makers to insist on the need for adequate provisions for libraries to fulfill their missions, and to bring down unfair allegations against these provisions.

Here’s an overview of the most relevant provisions for libraries, archives, museums and research and education institutions:

  • Fair use: non-exhaustive list of uses (research, criticism, reporting current events, teaching, comment, parody, preservation, etc.) and four relevant factors (nature of the work, amount and substantiality of the part of the work affected by the act, purpose and character of the use and substitution effect of the act upon the potential market for the work)
  • General exceptions for libraries, archives, museums and galleries, for non-commercial purposes:
    • to lend a work in a tangible media
    • to provide temporary access to a work in an intangible format accessed lawfully, to a user or to another institution
    • to undertake preservation and web archiving (copies for back-up and preservation of works in the collection, and preservation of works in publicly accessible websites)
    • to combine the preservation exception with making the work available when it has been withdrawn from public access after having been communicated to the public
    • to get copies from other institutions for incomplete works
    • to format-shift
    • to make copies when permission from the copyright owner cannot be obtained
    • to make copies to lend them to other institutions for exhibition
    • to supply documents
    • a limitation of liability for any library, archive museum or gallery employee working within the scope of his or her duties

*none of these provisions limit the fair use provision

  • Marrakesh provision, allowing the making and supplying of accessible format copies to a person with a disability (or a person who serves him or her), including across borders, with no commercial availability check and no remuneration provision. A compensatory sum of money is deposited in a particular account and can be collected by the copyright owner at any time, but there is also a process allowing the authorised entity to recover the amount
  • Contract override provision applicable to all the provisions in the act
  • Licenses for orphan works. Before use, there is a requirement to publish the intention to register the work as orphan in certain sources, followed by an application to a government body, which will grant a non-exclusive license if the procedure has been duly followed
  • Specific exceptions from copyright protection applicable to all works, among which:
    • Quotation (up to an extent “justified by the purpose”)
    • Use of illustrations in publications, broadcast, sound or visual record for the purpose of teaching (up to an extent “justified by the purpose”)
    • Translation of works for non-commercial purposes and limited to specific uses (personal, educational, …)
  • A temporary reproduction and adaptation exception, for transient or incidental copies or adaptations of a work that are an “integral and essential part of a technical process”
  • Reproduction exceptions for non-commercial educational and academic activities, including:
    • Making copies of works for the purposes of educational and academic activities
    • Including these in course packs (by educational institutions) both in physical and virtual learning and research environments
    • when there is no license available to incorporate the whole or a substantial part of a work, this will fall under the exception
    • Reproducing a whole textbook if the work is orphan, out of commerce or out of print
    • Incorporating portions of works in an assignment, portfolio, thesis or a dissertation for submission, personal use, library deposit or institutional repository (by a person receiving instruction)
  • A national open access policy: the author of any scientific work resulting of a research activity that received at least 50 per cent of its funding from the state has the right, despite granting the publisher or editor an exclusive right of use, to make the final manuscript version available open access.


Libraries at the African Youth SDGs Summit

Damilare Oyedele at the African Youth SDGs Summit

Damilare Oyedele at the African Youth SDGs Summit

By Damilare Oyedele, Library and You

Over 1,200 young people from across Africa gathered at Accra International Conference Centre, Accra Ghana from 7th – 9th November for the 2nd edition of the African Youth SDGs Summit.

The African Youth SDGs Summit is an annual continental summit that gathers young people from across Africa to deliberate and design solutions that will facilitate the gradual implementation and accomplishment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the African Union 2063 Agenda.

This year, the theme for the summit was “Partnership with Youth to Achieve the SDGs: Moving from Policy to Actions”. The 3-day continental gathering of young changemakers across Africa created blueprints, networks, and implementation plans for young people’s engagement and inclusion in SDG planning and implementation across the continent.

In view of this, the importance of access to information as a necessity to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals was also deliberated upon on the day 3 of the summit. To this Damilare Oyedele, Co-Founder & Chief Executive; Library and You had a parallel session where he made a presentation on; Libraries in our society: Prerequisite for the successful accomplishment of the Sustainable Development Goals in Africa. The presentation gave birth to a project launch called Library Impact Project: access to information for Africa’s development

Library Impact Project is an initiative designed to provide capacity, create awareness on how libraries can contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals with the view to facilitate partnerships and collaborations with policymakers, individuals, changemakers across Africa to engage libraries in their countries to accomplish the SDGs.

It is obvious that Africa’s future lies in the hands of her youths, and we all have the responsibility to take action and create sustainable solutions that will transform ‘Mother Africa’, to create the Africa we want, to create a better place for the current generation and generations unborn. However, for this to be a feasibility, access to information for all is eminent beyond comparison.

Effect of Open Access on Copyright Challenges and Library Budgets in Africa

Open Access Week DAY 1

by Kgomotso Radijeng, Member of IFLA’s Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) Advisory Committee (radijengk[at]bitri.co.w)

Open Access (OA) is one of the key methods of ensuring free access to information for all. There is no doubt that OA has liberated access to information and many institutions across the whole world have embraced it. OA is also increasingly becoming relevant as countries, especially the least developed, experience economic difficulties, with libraries experiencing extensive budget cuts.

However, there is a gap in terms of assessing the impact that OA has had on the challenges that it is meant to address such as copyright restrictions and budget constraints. Earlier this year a small survey was carried out to find out if the use of open access resources has had any impact on alleviating copyright challenges to access to information and budget constraints. The target group was academic institutions in the South African Development Community (SADC) region. Five institutions responded, namely: University of Botswana, University of Zambia, Botho University, University of Zimbabwe, and National University of Lesotho.

What the survey revealed is that OA has been well received as evidenced by the level of usage of the institutional repositories. For example, the University of Botswana (UBRISA) was set up in 2010 and has had 1,895,120 downloads while the National University Lesotho was set up in 2014 and has had 414 254 page views.

However, it was also apparent that access to OA has not helped much with copyright challenges and cost reduction; the respondents stated that OA has assisted a lot in terms of quantity of information resources and not necessarily on reduction of costs.

While OA has helped to free some money for other needs, there is still a lot of reliance on commercial databases. Some of the reasons advanced for continued reliance on commercial databases were:

  • Some academics still associated OA with predatory journals and feel that its quality is inferior to commercial publishing.
  • Commercial databases are seen as having higher “integrity”.
  • Commercial databases have a wider subject coverage compared to what is available under OA.
  • Academics still demand access to material in subscription journals.

The respondents were also asked to recommend efforts that should be put in place to promote OA. There was resounding support for advocacy; that the library fraternity needs to work with other stakeholders to raise awareness on benefits of OA and available OA resources.

Other initiatives that are necessary for the success of OA are: institutional leadership support, change of attitudes by researchers and academics towards OA publishing, government investment in ICT infrastructure, establishment of policy structures at institutional and national level, more OA publishing by commercial/reputable publishers, and more promotion by libraries of existing OA resources for the benefit of their users.

The success of all initiatives for promoting OA depends a lot on education, advocacy and awareness among key stakeholders and libraries can take a leading role in this. There is also a need for a more comprehensive impact assessment on the effect that OA has had on copyright challenges and cost reductions. There is recognition that OA can reduce the effects of subscription costs and licensing restriction where it is implemented efficiently, but it is imperative to collect and analyse relevant data that can demonstrate that effect.

For more information, check the power point of Kgomotso’s presentation at the Copyright and other Legal Matters Session during this year’s World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. 

5 May 2018 – African World Heritage Day

The African World Heritage Day is an opportunity to celebrate, in Africa and around the world, the cultural heritage, but it is also an opportunity to raise awareness about the urgent need to protect and safeguard endangered African heritage.

Despite the richness of Africa’s heritage, Africa remains underrepresented on the World Heritage List, yet accounts for 42 % of all listings on the List of World Heritage in Danger. More encouragingly, it represents a large part of the listings on the Memory of the World Register, which focuses more strongly on documentary heritage.

The Manuscripts of Mali

Over the last years the ancient city of Timbuktu has been frequent media attention for crimes not only against people, but also against Mali’s cultural heritage. During the occupation of northern Mali, extremists destroyed cultural heritage sites and set ablaze the Library of Timbuktu, burning around 4500 manuscripts and with it an important piece of Mali’s history. Already during the Jidhadist occupation, thousands of manuscripts had been transported in secret to Bamako, in the now famous rescue operation organised by the Timbuktu librarian Abdel Kader Haidara. Some librarians chose not to take part in the rescue mission, but instead chose to hide their precious manuscripts in secret desert hiding spaces around Timbuktu.

UNESCO formed a working group in response to Mali’s emergency situation, with IFLA represented by former President Ellen Tise. The group formulated an action plan to rebuild Timbuktu’s cultural heritage, with IFLA focussing on guarantee the safekeeping of written cultural heritage, as well as the restoration and adequate training for the cultural custodians in Mali. Today The British Library, through the Endangered Archives Programme, and in partnership with the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library in Minnesota, USA, are undertaking the digitisation of the libraries in Timbuktu.

PAC Centres

The IFLA Strategic Programme on Preservation and Conservation (PAC) was officially created during the IFLA annual conference in Nairobi in 1984 . The PAC Programme has one major goal: to ensure that library and archive materials, published and unpublished, in all formats, will be preserved in accessible form for as long as possible.

There are two PAC Centres in Africa: the South Africa PAC Centre located at the National Library of South Africa, and the Cameroon PAC Centre located at CERDOTOLA (the International Centre for research and documentation on African traditions and languages). The two PAC centres have a wide range of expertise concerning preservation and conservation as well as safeguarding cultural heritage. The centres host events, trainings and workshops and support librarians and others on preservation of documentary cultural heritage.

Cultural heritage both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural, and consisting of both movable and immovable assets inherited from the past, is of extremely high value for the present and the future of communities. Access, preservation, and education around cultural heritage are essential for the evolution of peoples and their cultures. The preservation and restoration of cultural heritage has always been a priority for IFLA, as a key element of the contribution of libraries to humanity.