Activists Preserving African Mother Tongues, Fighting Covid-19

As internet use surges on the continent, projects are working to help Africans find information online in their mother tongues. From Wikipedia posts in indigenous tongues to digital word libraries, African language lovers are going online to preserve and create words and content for future generations - an effort that has been given added urgency by the coronavirus pandemic. This is a big drive behind WikiAfrica, which since it was launched by the Moleskine Foundation in 2006 has contributed more than 40,000 written entries, as well as images and video files, to the widely popular online encyclopedia. "During the pandemic, translating information around social distancing, masks, and sanitisers has become crucial", a South African volunteer with WikiAfrica, who translates material into isiZulu and isiXhosa, two of South Africa's eleven official languages, said. Across the world, various efforts to translate materials into African mother tongues are generating culturally relevant content, while also helping keep indigenous languages alive. The UN has assisted Nigeria in creating a Covid-19 information portal that answers frequently asked questions in Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo languages, write Kim Harrisberg and Kristi Eaton for the Thomson Reuters Foundation.


Participants at an AfroCuration workshop with AfroPunk and Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa, 2019.

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