Big boost for Kiswahili as African Union joins campaign to spread the language across Africa

African Union headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa
  • The African Academy of Languages, AU’s specialised institution mandated to develop and promote African languages, has entered into a partnership with the East African Kiswahili Commission to “promote wide use of Kiswahili for regional integration and sustainable development.”
  • Adoption of Kiswahili as a continental language implies that there will always be a Kiswahili translator at all the bloc’s official meetings with documents, including treaties and agreements also being authored in the East African language.
  • Last year, Twitter, US-based social networking site, formally added the capability to detect Swahili words in tweets and to translate them, effectively making Swahili the first African language to be recognized by Twitter.

The Swahili language has received a boost to make it a continental-wide language.

The African Union has now joined the campaigns to elevate Kiswahili as one of its common languages ahead of its heads of State meeting slated for July 7.

The African Academy of Languages, AU’s specialised institution mandated to develop and promote African languages, has entered into a partnership with the East African Kiswahili Commission to “promote wide use of Kiswahili for regional integration and sustainable development.”

“The AU has partnered with the EAC to set the pace for the recognition and promotion of Kiswahili as a Language of Wider Communication in the whole of Africa,” the EAC Secretariat said in a statement on Wednesday.

Adoption of Kiswahili as a continental language implies that there will always be a Kiswahili translator at all the bloc’s official meetings with documents, including treaties and agreements also being authored in the East African language.

The push to make Kiswahili a pan-African lingua franca couldn’t have come at a better time especially now as the bloc moves to set rules for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) unveiled in Kigali, Rwanda last year.

Last year, Twitter, US-based social networking site, formally added the capability to detect Swahili words in tweets and to translate them, effectively making Swahili the first African language to be recognized by Twitter.

In a statement, the EAC secretary general Liberat Mfumukeko, said the Kiswahili push was driven by realisation by EAC policy organs of the importance of the language in regional integration.

“The language is a strategic resource for communication and active citizen participation in development,” he said.

A common language plays a crucial role in commerce. African countries have adopted a number of official languages that include English, French, Arabic and Portuguese, depending on their colonial heritage.

Swahili, also known as Kiswahili is a Bantu language and the first language of the Swahili people, it is the national language of four nations: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, (DRC) and spoken by over 150 million people.

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