International Council of Archives (ICA) 2018 in Yaoundé, Cameroun acted as an eye opener for me, as young professional and as my first time to attend an international archives conference, I realized that my peers were not as much involves as I was. My peers specifically from sub Saharan Africa were missing from the actions, yet the conference was on African soil for the first time. Surprisingly, I interact with who is who in the profession from sub Saharan Africa who were in attendance , just to mention a few, great scholars such Prof. Papa Diop from Senegal, Prof. Ngulube from South Africa, Prof. Wamukoya from Kenya among others and almost all the National Archives Directors from African continent. Many questions came into my mind, are there no young professionals working with these great men and women? Where will be sub Saharan Africa be in the next ten years with regards to the profession? Who will take over the profession? And why cant my peers rise up, why don’t we take the archives and records management to a higher level and who will be the next leaders if not mentored and included at this moment.
Fortunately, thanks to Dr. Seles, as an important event for Africa’s programme. I was given the opportunity to serves as a rapporteur for the session on developing the pan-African approach to archives and information management so as to reinforce its importance in national and regional strategies, I was privileged also to attend the sectional meetings specifically the ESARBICA region meeting whereby not including the young professional was raised, also attended Programme Commission (PCOM) and Association of Commonwealth Archivists and Records Managers meetings, these meeting proved to me that there lack serious continuity for profession in sub Saharan Africa. The deficiency of young professional rising up can also be witnessed by a paper whereby a submission call in February 2018, by Archives & Manuscripts for a special issue dedicated to research and writing from emerging scholars and new professionals resulted to only two successful applicants from sub Saharan Africa and one from North Africa whose papers were finally published.
In my opinion therefore designing the archives in 21ts century should involve mentoring and including the young professional so as to bridge the age gap in the profession, specifically from sub Saharan Africa. The foundation has been laid, from great minds in the previous years but now a new dispensation is needed, a new blood must be now injected to the sub Saharan region so that the archives and records management profession take a vertical move instead of being on a plateau level as experienced now. There must be a total shift and the profession be designed and redesigned, the young professionals and I mean young as below 40 years old must rise, fill the gap and propel the profession to another level. This urge, forced me to start Association of Young African Record Managers and Archivist (AYARMA) with the few likeminded young professionals I met in Yaoundé, from west Africa region I got one representative from Nigeria and two from Cameroon, from Eastern Africa I got one representative from Uganda, one from Mauritius, two from Kenya and from South African region I got one representative from Zambia and one from Botswana that were extra willing to chart away forward by designing the Archives profession in this 21st century in the sub Saharan Africa.
Bonface Odhiambo (in black top) the United States International University- Africa Archivist, with Students pursuing records and archives management from various universities in Kenya, during Archives week 2019 celebration at the University.
Reading James Lowry’s, blog, he raises concern of him being a secretary to the African program yet he is white, I honestly agree with him and I remember sharing this sentiment with some of my peers, my question was, why can’t African handle their African issues, are there no one to lead from the front? And I don’t really believe that Africans can’t spare time and resources just for the growth of the profession in their continent, buts it is the past mind set of us Africans, an outdated ideology that we can’t rise to the occasion therefore for James to achieve this goal of ensuring that it must be Africa based project leads then young vibrant professional needs to be mentored now, trained and brought on board, this is the way out James. We must change the tactic through bridging age gap, Archives and records management profession in Africa needs rejuvenation and renewal.
Therefore let’s use the International Archives Week to design the profession through mentorship and inclusion of the young professionals so as to give the profession a future look, gave the profession a new w lease of life, vibrancy for the sub Saharan Africa.
By Bonface Odhiambo, University Archivist