The Minister of Education, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh, has urged African governments to develop a comprehensive reading policy that will scale up interest in reading at all levels of education and society.
He entreated them to redouble their efforts towards resourcing libraries and creating library spaces to proactively support Africa’s development and aid in eradicating “learning poverty” and ensure quality education.
He charged African ministers responsible for libraries to take advantage of the opportunities available to drive the knowledge agenda through public libraries towards lifting their peoples from the depths of despair and deprivation.
Dr Opoku Prempeh made the call in Accra at the Third African Ministerial Roundtable Conference on Information Access of Ministers responsible for Public Libraries, on the theme: “Libraries on the African Development Agenda: Progress Made”.
The three-day conference brought together participants from 32 African countries including Ministers of State, policy-makers, Directors of Libraries and emerging library leaders, to take stock of their roles in the quest to achieving Africa’s dreams and aspirations.
This falls under the “Africa We Want” Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
The participants discussed the progress reports of some African nations in relation to the Cape Town (2015) and Durban (2018) Declarations, assessed the performance and achievements of African libraries and planned towards enhancing patronage of libraries in Africa to accelerate socio-economic development.
Dr Opoku Prempeh provided an overview of some of the investments the Government had made in the country’s library space, noting that it had increased funding to the Ghana Library Authority by 180 per cent.
Recognising the importance of libraries in development, he said the Government initiated moves to bring public libraries and libraries in schools back to life.
That, he said, increased staff strength of the Ghana Library Authority to 121 between 2018 and 2019, and had given clearance to recruit additional 70 staff next year.
The Government also opened new libraries, renovated existing one and increased the book stock in public libraries while adopting modern ICT tools in their operations and service delivery.
More so, he said, efforts were afoot to expand public library services in all the 260 district, municipal and metropolitan assemblies, provide internet connectivity in all libraries and expedite action for the passage of the new Ghana Library Bill in Parliament to respond to changing needs.
Mr Mandla Ntombela, the President of the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions (AfLIA), said libraries existed to improve the knowledge hub of Africans, but faced plethora of challenges and, therefore, required concerted efforts to resolve.
He said it was imperative for African governments to prioritise resources towards equipping Community Network Libraries because they were centres for engagements and knowledge acquisition.
He said libraries were the foundation of the future of African democracy,hence the need to resource them, especially with modern ICT tools and qualified staff for effective management.
Through libraries, the people, especially the youth, would have the opportunity to enhance their knowledge and understanding about their environment and contribute their quota towards national development.