Southern Africa: SADC Summit 2019 - Summit to Open New Doors for Kiswahili in SADC Region

Dar es Salaam — Dar es Salaam. The 39th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) in Tanzania this year is expected to open up chances for the Swahili language to spread to other member countries of the bloc.

To be held at the Mwalimu Julius Nyerere International Convention Centre (JNICC) in Dar es Salaam on August 17-18, the meeting will be chaired by President John Magufuli. Thereafter, he will become the Sadc Chairman for the next one year, to August 2020.

In that regard, Tanzanians hope that Dr Magufuli will deliver his speech in Kiswahili - thus drawing and holding the attention of the leaderships of the 16 member countries of the regional bloc.

Observers say there is a real possibility of a special resolution being made to promote use of the language in the Sadc countries. In and when that happens, it would add to ongoing efforts to teach the language in more African countries.

Recently, President Magufuli visited Malawi, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe where he took the opportunity to promote Swahili in those countries.

In South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa asked Dr Magufuli to consider providing Swahili language teachers for that country's schools.

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In Namibia, Dr Magufuli presented Swahili books to the country's Head of State to stimulate interest in the language in that country.

South Africa has already declared to start teaching Swahili in secondary schools and some higher learning institutions effective next year.

The director of Language and Culture at the ministry of Information, Sports, Arts and Culture, Dr Emmanuel Temu, says Tanzania has enough publications for people who aspire to learn the language, including dictionaries ('Kamusi').

He also said that the country has a data system which tracks the availability of Swahili experts. "Swahili is a commodity for now, and the government is trading it through the National Kiswahili Council," he said.

A member of the Kiswahili Council, Ms Consolata Mushi, says President Magufuli has shown intention to 'trade' the language -and the Sadc gathering in Tanzania this weekend is another opportunity to do so.

She also says that there is the possibility that participants at the Summit will propose the adoption of Swahili as an official language in the Sadc countries.

"The status of the (Swahili) language is gaining momentum," she says, speculating that the language could grow further by taking some words from the other languages spoken in the Sadc countries.

According to her, using Swahili in the Sadc counties would create new opportunities for Tanzanian linguists.

"There will be books and other Kiswahili publications that would be available for sale - and that is one way of marketing the language," she explains.

The executive secretary of the Zanzibar Kiswahili Council, Ms Mwanahija Omary, says Tanzania will have a chance to influence the region as the Sadc chairman. In any case, she says, the Zanzibar Kiswahili Council will strenuously advocate for the Sadc to adopt Swahili as one of the official languages in the region. "The President (Dr Magufuli) has shown the way (during his official tour of) South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. We will now follow suit," she pledged.

The executive secretary of the East Africa Kiswahili Commission, Prof Kenneth Simala, says it would be historic for President Magufuli to deliver his address in Kiswahili during the Sadc Summit.

"We congratulate Tanzania for being the next Sadc chair, and we hope that this will be an opportunity to promote Swahili," says Prof Simala.

For his part, an assistant lecturer at the Mwalimu Nyerere Memorial University in Dar es Salaam, Ernest Haonga said the language has united different peoples since the first century Christian Era (CE) when it started being used.

"I hope that it will also unite people in the Sadc region," he says. Pursuing a PhD in Swahili at the University of Dar es Salaam, Mr Haonga says all the countries in the Sadc region are of Bantu origin whose languages have common properties with Swahili. "I hope the meeting (SADC Summit in Tanzania) will also heed the call by Mwalimu Nyerere for African countries to value their languages, instead of promoting their colonial cultures," he says.

Swahili 'stakeholder' Ahmed Sovu says the Tanzania government's efforts to make Swahili one of the official languages in the region were promising.

"If the Swahili language will penetrate the (Sadc) bloc, then there will be a lot of opportunities for teachers, translators and interpretation experts," says Mr Sovu, who is also a PhD student at the University of Dar es Salaam.

"That will further open up the opportunities for expanding the market of local (Kiswahili) films to the region," Mr Sovu bubles with enthusiasm.

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