The circulation of African languages in the African public space


“Development by the Government in a foreign language is impossible unless the acculturation process is completed, which is where the cultural meets the economic.

Socialism by the Government in a foreign language is a trickery, this is where the cultural meets the social.

Democracy by the Government in a foreign language is a lure, and it is there that the cultural meets the political.”

Cheikh Anta Diop, Taxaw, n°6, 1977.

This webinar focuses on the circulation of African languages in the African public space. More than sixty years after the accession of African countries to independence, one fact is clear: in most countries on the African continent, the working languages used in the circles of power, administrations, parliaments, and institutions in charge of education and the production of knowledge are still largely those inherited from the European colonial administration: English, French, Spanish or Portuguese. Even if it is estimated that these foreign languages are mastered by a minority of the population, they nevertheless enjoy the status of official languages and are supposed to regulate the political, legal, cultural and economic life of the countries in question. As for the African languages, which are spoken by the majority of the population, they are, so to speak, relegated to the margins: in the streets, markets, informal sectors and the countryside of the deepest country…

How can we consider, under these conditions, any economic, social, cultural, intellectual, etc. development on a national scale if the great majority of the people concerned do not master the language in which the important affairs of the country are discussed? Is there not an obvious link between economic, social, cultural and intellectual growth and the language that carries (or not) this growth?

Fortunately, there are also examples on the continent where linguistic unity (around a national language) is a factor of progress: Ethiopia is an example, as well as the countries of the Maghreb, and to a certain extent, some countries of Eastern and Southern Africa: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Zambia. In the latter countries, the language spoken by all the inhabitants is an African language: Kinyarwanda and Kirundi for Rwanda and Burundi and Kiswahili for the others (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia).

Each of the speakers will attempt to highlight the link that exists, particularly in the case of African countries, between the national language and the emergence of democracy, as well as between the national language and intellectual, social, cultural and economic growth… 

Boris Boubacar DIOP


Journalist, novelist, essayist and professor, Boris Boubacar Diop has been the director of publication of the independent Senegalese daily newspaper Le Matin. He also taught Wolof for four years at the Gaston Berger University in Saint-Louis (Senegal) before teaching literature at the American University of Nigeria (AUN). He currently co-manages EJO, a national language publishing house founded with friends in Dakar.

In April 2019, Boubacar Boris Diop was awarded the Harold and Ethel L. Stellfox Lifetime Achievement Award from Dickinson University in Pennsylvania. In October 2021, the Neustadt Prize for International Literature was awarded to him for Murambi, the Book of Bones.

He is also the author of, among others: The Time of Tamango (1981), Les tambours de la mémoire (1990), Les traces de la meute (1993), Le cavalier et son ombre, (Tropic Prize, 1997). His novels in Wolof include: Doomi Golo (2003), Bàmmeelu Kocc Barma (2017) and Malaanum lëndëm (2022).

Ramenga Mtaali OSOTSI


Ramenga Mtaali OSOTSI holds a M.A. in Literature from Nairobi University (Kenya) and a Ph.D. in Folklore from Indiana University, Bloomington (USA). He is currently a Professor and Academic Leader at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology (DeKUT) in Nyeri, Kenya. Before coming to DeKUT he was an Emeritus Professor at the Department of English at James Madison University (USA), where he also taught African and World Literature for almost 20 years. Previously he was an Associate Professor of Literature at Moi University (Kenya).

His research interests focus on Ancient Black Knowledge and its links to Present-day African Literatures and Languages, Theory of African Literature, Oral Literature (Orature), Classical Written African Literature, Classical Written Kiswahili Literature.

His main publications in Kiswahili language include :

Falme Khufu na Waganga wake (King Khufu and his Magicians), in Alain Kojele & Yoporeka Somet, Le roi Khufu et ses magiciens. Contes de l’Égypte ancienne, 2019

Hadithi ya Sanhat, Mkuu Moja wa Kemet, in Sanhat. Multilingual translation of an ancient African hieroglyphic text, 2014.

Utendi wa Mwana Kupona: A Re-evaluation of a Waswahili Classic Poem, in Rose Ure Mezu (ed.), 2004.

He has also translated the Manden Charter into Kisawahili: Azimio la Mmande, 2014

Aboubakar SANOGO


Aboubakar SANOGO is currently an Associate Professor and Graduate Supervisor at Carleton University. He received his M.A. and Ph.D. from the School of Cinematic Arts of the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles. He is cross-appointed with the Institute of African Studies (IAS), the Institute for Comparative Studies in Literature, Art and Culture (ICSLAC) and the Curatorial Studies Program. He is currently Graduate Supervisor of the Film Studies Program.

Professor SANOGO’s work is located both inside and outside academia and seeks to intervene in both spaces in a mutually transformative manner. It involves research, teaching, film curation, policy making, and institution building. His research interests include African and Afro-diasporic cinemas, documentary film theory, history and form, transnational and world cinemas, film preservation and restoration, colonial cinema, early and silent cinema, and film festival studies. He is currently working on completing two manuscripts, The History of Documentary in Africa and The Indocile Image: The Cinema of Med Hondo, and an edited collection on the cinema of Med Hondo.

Prof. Aboubakar SANOGO is the founder of Carleton University’s World Cinema Forum and of the annual African Film Festival of Ottawa (AFFO). He is also the North American Regional Secretary for the Pan African Federation of Filmmakers (FEPACI), Africa’s most important filmmakers’ organization. In this capacity, he is currently working on the African Film Heritage Project (AFHP), a partnership between FEPACI, Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), which seeks to preserve and restore 50 African films of historical, cultural and artistic significance.

Moses Munyao KILOLO


Munyao KILOLO is the Founder and Editor in chief of Ituĩka, a literary platform devoted to African Languages and Translation. He also works as the projects officer at the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation and as director of the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize. Each of these projects are in service of African Languages.

He previously served as the Managing Editor of Jalada Africa, where he conceptualized and led their inaugural translation project. The project saw one story, originally written in Gikuyu, translated into 100 languages.

His writing in his mother tongue, Kiikamba, has been published in the 26th issue of Absinthe: World Literature in Translation. 

Yoporeka SOMET


Yoporeka SOMET is a Philosopher and an Egyptologist. He his currently an Associate Professor at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology and Director of the Centre for African Renaissance Studies within this University.

Member of the editorial board of Journal Ankh, a journal of Egyptology and African civilizations, he has authored many articles and books, such as:

L’Afrique dans la philosophie – Introduction à la philosophie africaine pharaonique (Khepera 2005 ; Présence Africaine, 2019) 

Cours d’initiation à la langue égyptienne pharaonique (Khepera & Presses Universitaires de Dakar, 2007 ; Teham Édition, 2019)

Anthony William Amo : sa vie et son œuvre, Teham Éditions, 2016

L’Égypte ancienne : un système africain du monde, Teham Éditions, 2018

King Khufu and his Magicians, Teham Éditions, 2019.

He has also contributed, along with Ayi Kwei Armah and the SHMSW BAK workgroup to the translation and publication in many African languages of original texts from ancient Egypt at Per Ankh Publishers (Popenguine, Senegal).

His research focuses towards a better knowledge of the legacy of ancient Egypt through its language, philosophy, literature, myths, religion, axiology, socio-political organization, material culture, etc., and their re-appropriation in the contemporary African cultural context.