Live-blogging the 2009 Vancouver PKP Conference

Synthesis: Africa-related Sessions at PKP 2009

 “There is no way we can succeed in the eradication of poverty if the developing world is not part of the knowledge creation, its dissemination and utilization to promote innovation. Higher education is a critical factor in making this possible and must be part of any development strategy.” – Mamphela Ramphele

(as cited in the AJOL presentation – July 9, 2009)


Africa Satellite small.jpg (source)


The conference included a healthy representation of Africa-focused initiatives that were profiled in the following workshop sessions:

1. Establishing a new open access journal in Africa: the case study of the African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine (PHCFM)  Pierre de Villiers (blogged by Tracy Scott)

2. Knowledge production through scholarly publishing in sub-Saharan Africa: a bibliometric analysis of the period 1996-2007Ezra Ondari-Okemwa (blogged by Jeffrey D.)

3. Online publishing education in Africa: a new program at KNUSTLucy Ry-Kottoh, Eric Anane-Antwi, Samuel Smith-Esseh  CANCELLED

4. Open Journal Systems (OJS) software as used by African Journals OnLine (AJOL)Susan Murray (blogged by Pam Gill)

5. Scholarly publishing in Africa: the online potential, the online challenge  – Samuel Smith-Esseh (blogged by Lauryn Oates)

In addition, several other sessions addressed open access issues in the developing world (or ‘global South’) more generally. The following synopsis is based on sessions #1,4 and 5.

Common Themes

       Developed world scholarly journals are simply out of reach, in an economic sense, to the vast majority of academics and professionals in Africa;

       The growth in interest, availability of data, partnerships and new OSS is growing exponentially, with new African institutions and partners steadily coming on board;

       There is increased interest in African scholarship from the outside world, related to the new lines of access emerging: helping to instigate a two-way information flow. This has huge potential to change the dynamics of the information society and is about voice, representation, participation and leaving a unique cultural imprint;

       Common values in sustainability emphasis and quality of information and presentation; not all viability issues are solved- further innovation is needed here- though ‘Family Medicine & Primary Healthcare’s’ experience show the viability of using an OA approach as a business model;

       Relevancy of Creative Commons licenses to these new initiatives;

       Multinational partnerships are often utilized to launch OA initiatives for developing world: international funding sources are leveraged with international expertise, local partners- truly networked;

       Production costs for on-line publications are significantly lower than print;

       Language accessibility is increasingly on the radar but no initiatives profiled were in indigenous African languages;

       The sessions had a focus on software and information, with less emphasis on hardware, connection and physical accessibility challenges, for which there was little overall discussion;

       Support to authors, African publishers and institutions will be critical for increasing local production.

Looking Ahead

In future PKP conferences, it will be valuable to continue following developments with the Africa initiatives, addressing emerging trends, challenges and opportunities. However, it will also be useful to draw in participants affiliated with other regions of the developing world. Specifically, considering access to scholarly journals in countries where internet access is restricted and the information environment is characterized by an authoritarian political environment could yield more sensitivity to the special challenges faced in such contexts and spur innovation that might address such challenges.

Some concluding notes from the AJOL session sum up well critical lessons learned and set forth some principles for future work:

1.     “Technological tools are just the vehicle”: relationships and communication are still the drivers of success.

2.     Choose partners wisely and work closely with them.

3.     Listen to the needs of your users and beneficiaries.

4.     OSS has matured.

5.     And for Africa- get a critical mass of African-published work on line.


Resources for Further Study

Aluka – Building a digital library of scholarly resources 
from and about Africa

Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa

African Studies Association



1 comment

1 Recent links on Open Access « Free Our Books { 08.01.09 at 1:26 am }

[…] OA in Africa: ‘Developed world scholarly journals are simply out of reach, in an economic sense, to the vast majority of academics and professionals in Africa.’ […]