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AU Urges Efforts To Tackle Insufficient Reading Culture In Africa

Schoolgirl reading at her desk in elementary school lesson

The African Union (AU) on Saturday urged African countries to promote the culture of reading among African youth.

“The development of the reading culture in Africa is an issue of high importance, but yet unanimously given insufficient regard especially in Africa,” said Mesfin Tessema, Director of the AU’s Department of Strategy, Policy Planning, Monitoring, Evaluation and Resource Mobilization (SPPMERM), during a continental meeting.

The AU director made the remarks during the ongoing three-day continental meeting under the theme “Promoting a Culture of Reading in Africa,” which is underway at the headquarters of the AU in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

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“Education starts and ends with reading. Children are taught at a young age that reading is one of the four basic skills they need to deal with in the educational ladder,” the AU director stressed.

Figures from the AU show that Africa has the lowest literate population as compared to the rest of the world, in which the literate population in Africa currently estimated around 70 percent, significantly lower than a world average of nearly 90 percent.

Tessema also highlighted the challenges faced in the development of national, public, community and school libraries in Africa such as the lack of appropriate legislation, inadequate allocation of budgets, as well as the existing shortage of professionals in the sector.

According to Tessema, the shortage of libraries in the continent also goes beyond “to the extent that one library is expected to serve about half a million population.”

“No development aspiration can be realized without knowledge and education,” he stressed, as he also commended the ongoing efforts by some AU member countries with regard to adoption of approaches taken by many public and community libraries in Africa, to satisfy information needs of their users.

Tessema also emphasized the current low ratio of libraries to the population in some African countries as a major factor behind the continent’s insufficient reading culture.

The high-level gathering mainly envisaged to come up with a framework of action to boost the development of a culture of reading in Africa to be adopted by responsible government bodies in all AU member countries, it was noted.

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