Africa is fast banking on the development of its languages to create a global cultural identity that promotes the dynamics of the continent’s worldview and deliberate on accelerating the realisation of Agenda 2063.
Acknowledging the value of linguistic diversity, the African Union (AU) is urging all member states to observe the inaugural African Languages Week that kicked off on January 24 and continues till January 30, 2022.
“This is to commemorate the relevance of African languages and cultures in Africa and the African diaspora, as a special moment of African identity and in celebrating African patrimony, culture and heritage,” a statement by the AU says.
The African Languages Week, officially launched in July 2021 in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, will be a pathway of realising Agenda 2063 of the AU’s Aspiration Five that promotes “an Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics.”
Agenda 63 is AU’s blueprint and master plan for transforming Africa into a global powerhouse of the future by 2063.
In Kenya, the Nation Media Group (NMG) has partnered with the AU in developing and creating awareness of the commemoration, with the company’s Swahili paper Taifa Leo leading the way in acknowledging the role of Africa’s original languages in replenishing Africa’s identity in global geopolitics and economy.
NMG, which started spearheading the growth of Swahili language in 1959 when the newspaper was launched, has had a Swahili Day every last Friday of every month since last year where employees are expected to use the language in all forms of communication.
“It is an opportunity to reflect on the place of African languages in rekindling African consciousness, their place in socio-economic development, and the need to promote and grow them across the continent and globally,” Taifa Leo’s managing editor Peter Ngare said.
The paper has been running editorial features about the history of the language, how it can be used as a tool for regional integration, economic development, its expansion abroad, with scholars highlighting its growth impediments.
With over 180 million speakers and being taught in over 100 universities, NMG has long been promoting the use of Kiswahili in the region, packaging and distributing the Taifa Leo newspaper as a revision guide for both primary and secondary schools, with model exams being published from Monday to Saturday. The paper also publishes exclusive educational content pull-outs every Monday and Thursday.
The executive secretariat of the African Academy of Languages (ACALAN-AU), AU’s specialised institution to transform the language diversity to serve as a factor for African integration and development, said this year’s celebration theme is “African Languages: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.
The African Languages Week is also geared to taking stock on how African languages are faring in the world of global languages so as to see "where we stand in our language development endeavors."
It is also a way of developing linguistic cooperation and exchange, and assessing the necessary and vital work of developing the languages and the work that still needs to be done.
The commemoration, AU said, will also determine ways and means of making African languages more functional, acceptable and part of the development discourse of Africans and African global citizenship.