‘I Found It’: Student seeks to revive Africa’s oldest libraries

When Ms. Aisha Abubakar went looking for African books online, she found it was extremely rare to find everything online. Since they aren’t being published on Amazon or anywhere else, the more ancient African texts needed to be discovered and brought back to life. Since then, Ms. Abubakar, a data and science reporting student from Kenya, and Cheikh Njie, a project manager in the field of science, have been leading the charge in the field of library development in Africa. It’s a project in which they’re learning more about the history of books throughout history, using digital technologies to revive what has become some of the world’s oldest libraries.

The idea began in 2015, when Ms. Abubakar, from what is now northern Kenya’s Athi River District, went looking for African books online. According to the Sahana Diaries, an African news site, there weren’t many options. Upon being told about the Ethiopian Archive at Lalibela, an ephemeral library in Ethiopia that’s been offline for 200 years, she immediately realized the kind of impact such a project could have.

“I went there for the first time on a dare,” Ms. Abubakar said. “I had read the book ‘A Journey Around Africa by Agha Shahid Ali’ and thought, ‘Why can’t I use that?’ When I finally went, I came back smiling and telling my friend ‘I found it, this is big. You can use it too.’”

Click through the gallery below to see how these two are going to help to bring African literature out of print and back to the 21st century.

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