Africa has been characterised as the ‘silent continent’ because so little of what Africa has to say has, in the past, reached beyond limited local audiences. Building on a long career in scholarly and academic textbook publishing, Eve Gray’s interest is in tracking the rapidly changing environment of scholarly communication in a digital world. She explores the opportunities that this offers Africa to break out of the scarcity model of expensive print resources, which has proved dysfunctional in this context, to the more abundant world of open and collaborative online communications. And, most particularly, what publishing and communication models work for Africa, rather than reliance on global communications models and traditions that are not geared to African needs.

University of Ghana, Legon (c) wikimedia CC

University of Ghana, Legon (c) wikimedia CC

I have been following the debate raging in the UK and beyond about whether the Finch Commission and the Research Councils UK  - and then the EC with a slightly different emphasis – were right in opting for support for the ‘gold route’ of open access publishing rather than prioritizing only the ‘green route’ of open access repositories. There seems to have been a general consensus in the commentaries that I have read that this will disadvantage the developing world, which will be faced with the barrier of high article processing fees and become increasingly excluded. The green route, through continuing creation of institutional repositories, would be better for us, we are told.

I don’t agree. The reasons are complex, but at heart this takes us back to the question of whether we are seeking access to or participation in the production of global literature. Which policy path would most effectively give voice to research from Africa, largely silenced in the current system? Access to world literature is also important, but is inadequate on its own, risking perpetuating a neo-colonial dispensation that casts the dominant North as the producer and the developing world as the consumer of knowledge.

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