Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 31, November 2002 


African Association of Editors of Scholarly Journals in the making

Janet Hussein
Dr Janet Hussein is the Editor of the Zimbabwean Science News and Secretary of the Zimbabwean Scientific Association, PO Box CY 124 Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe. Email:

Journals are the backbone of scholarly work, providing a medium through which scholars can exchange information, be educated and stimulate debate. African scholarly journals have expanded in number and scope over the past twenty years and are increasingly providing local, regional and international exposure for the research and development done on the continent. There have been a number of initiatives to improve quality, output, usage and management of scholarly journals in Africa, especially in the field of electronic publishing, but there is scope for a great deal of improvement.

In July 2002, I attended a seminar in Zanzibar on ‘Strengthening Scholarly Publishing in Africa’ (Arusha IV)1 and presented a paper on the challenges facing African journals.2 The seminar was funded and organized by the Dag Hammarskjøld Foundation and the African Books Collective. Participants included African and international publishers, editors, writers, booksellers, scholars and resource persons. At this seminar, I put forward a proposal for the creation of an African Association of Editors of Scholarly Journals. It was envisaged that this Association would assist editors in meeting the challenges facing journal publication in Africa, particularly through capacity building, and would work towards improving the quality, quantity and usage of the journals. There was also a proposal to form an African Scholarly Network Press, and the Editors’ Association could work in conjunction with this Network or possibly apply to work under the African Publishers Network (APNET).

There have been several initiatives to form editors’/publishers’ organizations in Africa. These include the Consortium of African Scholarly Publishers (CASP), formed in 1993 under the African Centre for Technology Studies (ACTS) in Kenya, and the African Association of Science Editors (AASE) started in Addis Ababa. Both these organizations folded within about a year of starting. An association of editors is, however, clearly needed if Africa’s journals are to take pride of place on the continent and project a positive image of our scholarship on the world stage. The association would provide a regionally and internationally recognizable body working to promote journals in Africa, much like the African Publishers Network which has played a crucial role in promoting book publishing on the continent. The association would also provide training for editors, would lobby universities and research institutions for improved recognition for publishing in African journals, and help to increase the quality and impact factors/citation indices of African publications. If a new association is to be formed, however, it will need to have clearly defined goals, committed members and access to funding for identified projects, in order to thrive. Several international organizations have indicated interest in providing support and/or funding for the above kinds of activities, if initiatives are made by editors in Africa.

A proposal to form the association was then sent out to all the journals on the African Journals Online (AJOL) list with the assistance of Pippa Smart and Carol Priestley in INASP. To date, about fifty enthusiastic responses have been received from the original 124 emails sent out to editors/publishers of scholarly journals in Africa. The responses have come from all over Africa, covering a wide spectrum of journal types. So the proposed association will truly represent the interests of African scholarly editors. INASP have also placed news about the proposal on their website.

Some editors have offered their services to get the Association going. A formal working group comprising Ruth Oniang'o (African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition & Development), Felicia Oyekanmi from CODESRIA, T. Assefa from OSSREA, O. Omoregie (Journal of Aquatic Science), Elizabeth le Roux (African Insight), A. Omigbodun (Tropical Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology), Udu Yakubu (Journal of Cultural Studies), M. Horsfall Jnr (Journal of Applied Science & Environmental Management), Dr Ngowi (Botswana Journal of Technology) and Janice Limson (Science in Africa) has therefore been formed to lay the foundation for the association.

As a first step, the working group are putting together a questionnaire to send out to interested persons, to gather ideas for a formal proposal to be put to potential members and donors. We then hope to organize an inaugural meeting, perhaps combined with some training. INASP have also suggested other activities, including the setting up of an email discussion group; website; newsletter; workshops and training/development resources linkage with other editorial associations (e.g. the European Association of Science Editors – EASE).

Those interested in obtaining further information should access news on INASP's website or contact Pippa Smart



[end] [BPN, no 31, 2002, p. 13.]

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