Last month we celebrated Africa Day on the 25th May. The day, which is recognised internationally, commemorates the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (now known as the African Union), which took place on the 25th May 1963. Part of the motivation for the day is for Africa (and Africans) to tell their own stories, and to celebrate their many accomplishments. Too often the tale of Africa is a negative one, so Africa Day allows the continent to show off its best side!
Piggy backing on Africa Day is the newly formed African Languages Day, which was launched by eNitiate, a Pan-African digital agency, in February this year. Effectively a social media campaign, #AfricanLanguagesDay, was inspired by the unfair treatment that many African languages face on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. According to the founders, some of the biggest languages (in numbers) from the continent are not included in the language lists of popular social networks, and so are often mis-indexed. An ongoing campaign, #SwahiliIsNotIndonesian, to see Swahili recognised by Twitter (which often misidentifies Swahili tweets as Indonesian), has finally borne fruit with Swahili/Kiswahili being the first African language to be officially recognised by Twitter.
To further advance the cause #AfricanLanguagesDay is aimed at encouraging Africans on social media to ‘speak’ in their indigenous languages more frequently. The campaign targeted the approximate 300 million Africans who use social media, an impressive number, and had an equally impressive result with the campaign reaching five million users.