Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Scholarly publishing in sub-Saharan Africa in the twenty-first century: challenges and opportunities"

was presented at the Public Knowledge Project conference on July 12, 2007 at the SFU Harbour Centre, Vancouver, Canada.

The presenter Mr. Ezra M. Ondari-Okemwa, from Moi University Eldoret, Kenya, shared his views and ideas on how to improve sub-Saharan Africa’s visibility in scholarly publishing. Bordering Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda, Kenya is an important link and a positive stabilizing influence in the sub-Saharan region. In his recent study, Mr. Ondari-Okemwa examined scholarly publications produced in the sub-Saharan region from 1997 to 2007. The aims of this study were to examine the role that scholarly publishing plays in the generation and sharing of knowledge, describe the challenges in scholarly publishing, and discuss ways of enhancement in production and distribution of knowledge. The study found that the sub-Saharan region lags behind in scholarly publishing when compared to other parts of the world. For example, 6,661 publications were produced in Kenya in 1997-2007 as compared to 59,271 publications produced in Canada in 2006*. According to Mr. Ondari-Okemwa, the challenges in scholarly publishing that the sub-Saharan region is faced with include:

  • Low rate of scholarly publishing and dissemination of knowledge
  • Little generation of knowledge
  • Impaired access to digital scholarly resources (very low due to lack of Internet access)
  • Technological (information and communication technologies are still under-developed and the region cannot support electronic knowledge transfer)
  • Political challenges (limited freedom of expression, corruption, nepotism and tribal clashes)
  • Socio-economic challenges (scholars are not well supported financially, many research facilities are outdated, poorly-funded libraries, absence of organized library networking, inability to afford journal subscriptions, and dated books – all makes it difficult for scholars to make scientific progress.
  • Lack of incentives for scholars, non-attendance of academic conferences, migration of scholars to foreign countries, and language barriers
  • Invisibility of scholarly publications emanating from sub-Saharan Africa

Looking optimistically towards the future, Mr. Ondari-Okemwa believes that open access will greatly contribute to the quality and dissemination of research and possibly affect economic, environmental and social development issues, not only in sub-Saharan Africa region in twenty-first century, but globally.

Ezra M. Ondari-Okemwa at the PKP Conference in Vancouver, Canada

*According to Ondari-Okemwa’s study findings, see Table 2: Countries with 235 records plus between 1997 and 2007.

Related publications:

Arunachalam, Subbiah. Information for Research in Developing Countries: Information Technology – Friend or Foe? Bulletin of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. June/July 2003.

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