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1. Background

2. Summary of Achievements

3. Setbacks

4. Proposed Projects and Activities

5. The Future of JICPA

The joint IFLA/ICA Committee on Preservation and Conservation in Africa (JICPA)

Report 2002

1. Background

Studies and surveys on the state of preservation of library and archival materials which were carried out by UNESCO, IFLA and ICA had clearly demonstrated an urgent need for intervention so as to reduce the rate of deterioration of important documentary heritage in many parts of the world. And as we all know, the situation has been particularly unsatisfactory in Africa due to various factors which are already known to all of us. It is for these reasons that IFLA and ICA made a decision that something should be done to deal with this problem. As a start, a major Pan African Conference on Preservation and Conservation of Library and Archival Materials was organized in Nairobi in June 1993. Most of the funds for this most successful conference were raised by IFLA/ALP. It is at this Conference that a decision was made to establish a Committee with a specific mandate to promote and coordinate preservation and conservation activities in Africa for a specific period, that is, 1997 to 1999. This, of course, needed money. IFLA/ALP came to our rescue when it obtained a DANIDA grant of US $ 220,550 to fund JICPA programmes and activities. This money was supposed to finance specific projects and activities, and was managed from IFLA/ALP headquarters in Uppsala, Sweden. This was certainly the best arrangement. It worked quite well.

2. Summary of Achievements

2.1. Conservation Workshops

The Executive Committee of JICPA had consistently noted that training of conservation personnel was lacking in most African countries, even at the very basic level. Furthermore, there was a need to increase awareness among policy makers on the importance of preservation and conservation. It is for these reasons that the Executive Committee determined that Conservation Workshops were a priority. The aim was to provide basic training in conservation for technical staff. These JICPA workshops were organized as follows:

  1. Dakar, Senegal, 1997. It was funded by BIEF. As this was the first workshop, it faced a number of problems and this helped us in planning and implementing similar projects in the future.
  2. Durban, South Africa, 1998. It was funded by a DANIDA grant through IFLA/ALP. It was for English-speakers.
  3. Kairouan, Tunisia in 1998. The workshop was for Arab-speaking countries, and was funded by DANIDA through IFLA/ALP.
  4. Harare, Zimbabwe, 1999. UNESCO provided the funding. It was for English-speakers.
  5. Cape-Verde, 1999. It was for Portuguese-speakers, and UNESCO provided the funds.
Apart from the above workshops for conservators, JICPA also organized the following events:
  1. A Workshop on Digital Technology as a Preservation Management Strategy, Durban, South Africa, December 2000. Participants for this workshop were from Eastern and Southern Africa. Only qualified persons with relevant experience were invited. It was funded by UNESCO.
  2. JICPA was also privileged to organize a Workshop on Safeguarding African Heritage in Cape Town, South Africa during the period 26th February to 2nd March 2001. Most of the participants were from Eastern Central and Southern Africa. It was funded by UNESCO through its Memory of the World Programme, and managed by JICPA. Key representatives such as Aziz Abid (UNESCO), Sjoerd Koopman (IFLA) and Bjorn Lindh (ICA) graced the Workshop.

2.2. Model Curriculum on Conservation

Selected experts from Library and Information Schools in Africa met in Nairobi in 1998 and successfully developed a Model Curriculum on Preservation and Conservation of Library and Archival Materials in Africa. The curriculum was published and widely distributed through the JICPA African Executive Committee Members. Similarly, a brochure on JICPA programmes and activities was also published and distributed.

2.3. Survey of Conservation Facilities and Experts in Africa

A major survey on conservation facilities and experts in Africa was carried out. Although the work was not finished on time, it was finally completed and published in 2001 - thanks to Mr. Peter Coates. It is also available in the JICPA Website http://eba-prema.net/jicpa/

2.4. Website

JICPA has now a Website, courtesy of IFLA/PAC. It is now time for IFLA Africa Section and ICA Branches in Africa to promote the usefulness of this facility, and also to utilize it fully.

2.5. Executive Committee Meetings

The DANIDA grant enabled the Executive Committee Members to meet regularly to plan and review JICPA's programmes and activities. Without this, I do not think we would have achieved the success we did. On reflection, we can ask ourselves : Could the Committee have been much smaller and still achieve the same results. I have no good answer for now. All I can say is that the original motive was noble.

Some Executive Committee Members (Secretary not included) were provided with e-mail facilities. This was to enable them to effectively promote and co-ordinate preservation programmes and activities in their respective countries and regions.

As is indicated in paragraph 3.1. below, not much was achieved in this particular area. At the end, this turned out to have been a poor investment by JICPA. The only consolation is that it was not possible to foresee and prevent the problem.

2.6. Rare Common Approach by IFLA and ICA

JICPA gave IFLA and ICA an excellent platform to plan together, and to work together to tackle a similar problem in Africa. I do not think that there is better way of dealing with this very serious problem in Africa other than for the two international NGOs to continue joining hands for a common purpose. In my view, it may have been much more difficult to secure so much support form UNESCO if we did not have one single implementing agency. Note that UNESCO funding through JICPA was very high, and actually very close to the generous DANIDA grant.

2.7. The JICPA Secretariat

throughout the life of JICPA, it was funded by IFLA/ALP. It also got significant moral/and financial support from the Kenya National Archives and Documentation Service, the host. There is no doubt that the location of the Secretariat was well-chosen.

3. Setbacks

3.1. National Preservation Committees

From the very beginning, it was realized that JICPA's programmes and activities could be best implemented through the formation of National Preservation Committees in African countries. It was noted that such Committees could facilitate awareness raising on preservation and conservation and especially among policy makers, of course senior librarians and archivists included. It was also realized that such Committees had the potential of catalyzing the mobilization of local resources for JICPA's objective. Despite all the efforts made, not much was achieved. Most of the few countries which had announced formation of National Preservation Committees had nothing to show a few years down the line. Even more importantly, there does not seem to have been significant increases of investments by governments or the information professionals specifically on preservation and conservation programmes. As a result of this very serious setbacks, it has been very difficult to secure additional funding for JICPA after the DANIDA grant was exhausted. Personally, I fully understand and appreciate the position of potential donors.

In South Africa and Kenya however, there are organizations which perform the functions of National Preservation Committees. It is significant to note that they were established before JICPA was "born".

3.2. Select Bibliography on Preservation and Conservation

Paucity of relevant materials on preservation and conservation for the African situation was noted. A decision was therefore made to develop a Select Bibliography on Preservation and Conservation to meet the African needs. It was going to include only relevant materials, and of course within certain time frame. This project was aimed at complementing the Model Curriculum on Preservation and Conservation. Unfortunately, the project was not successfully completed. The question now is: Is the project still necessary ? May be not in view of certain recent events.

4. Proposed Projects and Activities

During the last executive Committee Meeting of JICPA which was held at Cape Town, South Africa in February 2001, it was proposed that the following projects and activities be implemented, subject of course to availability of funds.

    a) Sensitization Seminar for French-speaking Policy Makers in Africa, 2002.

    b) A sensitization seminar on preservation and conservation for English-speaking African Countries. It would be for top policy makers. The proposed venue will be Kampala, Uganda in 2003.

    c) Survey of newspaper collections. This is already ongoing.

    d) Workshop for Microfilming Technicians for French-speaking African countries. No date proposed.

    e) Workshop on Microfilming Technicians for English-speakers. Nod date proposed.

    f) Search for funds for training and scholarships.

The Executive Committee of JICPA continues to recognize training as key to improving the professional capability in the area of preservation. This could be in the form of:

  • Attachments in more developed institutions for up to 8 weeks.
  • Formal training. JICPA, IFLA and ICA could begin looking for grants to finance formal training programmes at diploma, degree, M.A or even Ph. D Levels. This is a common feature in museums and there is a possibility for similar arrangements for library and archival materials. The need for this kind of training may be much more important than hitherto acknowledged.

5. The Future of JICPA

Technically speaking, JICPA is not really alive now. It needs to be funded, rejuvenated and then thoroughly restructured. If this option is not possible, then its functions should be taken over by IFLA Africa Section and the African ICA Branches jointly or independently. Two things are, however, clear in my mind. First, IFLA and ICA should continue to jointly promote and coordinate preservation programmes and activities in Africa. The situation is still most unsatisfactory, especially with regard to:

    A.V. materials. It is more cost effective for them to work together. Secondly, African governments and policy makers must invest more in this area.

    Even more importantly, top African librarians and archivists must demonstrate greater commitments to preservation issues. I am not sure they are doing enough.

    In case JICPA survives in its current form, or under a different arrangement, it will be necessary to totally change its philosophy. In my view there should be no free service. It should be necessary to insist on cost-sharing for participation in workshops and seminars. Only very special cases may be exempted.

    Meanwhile, let me once again say how thankful I am for the trust and support given to me by IFLA/ALP, IFLA/PAC, ICA and the entire Executive Committee of JICPA for the entire period I was the Secretary. This is actually what made work peaceful-and hopefully successful!

    And finally special thanks should go to IFLA/ALP (DANIDA), UNESCO and others who financially supported JICPA programmes and activities. Thanks you very much.
    Asante Sana.

M. Musembi
Secretary - JICPA


Latest Revision: July 23, 2002 Copyright ©
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