We take the liberty of reposting in full; the original is here.
That was the key theme to come out of U.S. Secretary of State Clinton's 11-day tour of Africa which concluded last week. With stops in Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and South Africa, Secretary Clinton spoke about topics as diverse as HIV/AIDS and political governance. But what stands out about this trip is the tone she set at the beginning.
During her remarks in Senegal, Clinton gave a message that resonates not only in Africa but within transitioning countries worldwide: The importance of building sustainable partnerships to encourage country ownership development. We can think of no better existing institution to fulfill this call-to-action than public libraries. More than 230,000 of these institutions - not to mention the skilled staff and resources within - are already in existence in many transitioning and developing countries.
In fact, Africa has more libraries than you may realize. There are approximately 1,800 libraries in South Africa, 409 in Malawi and 500 in Niger alone that are put to use every day in communities large and small to connect people with the information they need to make informed decisions about their lives and those of their family.
So how exactly do public libraries lead to country ownership of development? Here are a couple of our favorite examples from Beyond Access members in Africa:
- Empowering women and agricultural workers in Uganda: The Kitengesa Community Library, a founding member of the Uganda Community Libraries Association, is proving that libraries are about more than just books. Serving more than 1,000 residents in a small community, the library has become a central meeting spot for a women's microcredit group to discuss small business practices. It's clear the local community feels a sense of ownership for this special place.
- Bridging the nation's education gap in Burkina Faso: With approximately 45,000 visits each year and more than 400 books borrowed monthly, the Béréba Public Library is one busy place! Together with Friends of the African Village Libraries, Béréba has become a hub for educational activities in a country where less than 50 percent of school-aged children are actually enrolled. Whether it's hosting an annual summer reading camp or providing night reading opportunities via 240 solar lanterns, this library is an innovative and invaluable locally-operated resource.
The role of libraries in country ownership development just makes sense. Think about how your library is helping to positively impact a patron. Multiply that by thousands, because that's how many have access to public libraries. Country ownership development starts with a library.