Tuesday, August 23, 2005

THE AFRICA CENTRE: "The Heart of Africa in the Heart of London."

If you are ever in London, you may want to go and visit The Africa Centre, which is located at 38 King Street in Covent Garden. The Africa Centre aims to promote positive awareness about Africa, and to help to empower the African Diaspora in the UK, and to support Africa's development aspirations. Their motto is: "The Heart of Africa in the Heart of London."

Established in 1961, The Africa Centre is an independent charity that has for over 40 years, been a cultural and educational center for Africans in London. It was developed to create greater awareness among British and other European people about developments in Africa and its Diaspora as well.

In 1964 by Dr Kenneth Kaunda, the first president of Zambia, formally opened the Centre. And during its four-decade history, the Centre has hosted leading African artists, writers, politicians and musicians who have met or performed there. It has been a place Africans could be "a source of inspiration to one another," and share their visions of Africa with British people.

In addition to being great resource to Africans, the African Centre has enriched the cultural life of Britain.

For many years, the Centre has been both a home away from home for the members of the African community in Britain. And the Centre's web site says that its new mission since 2000 has been to be "a flagship for Africa in Europe promoting the aspirations of Africa and its Diaspora; in particular to promote cultural, economic and socio-political initiatives in Britain and the rest of Europe that assist in the development of Africa." And a crucial part of its mission will be to promote programs that will strengthen African economies.

Another important aspect to the African Centre is the Contemporary Africa Database. The Database is a participatory online project, designed to provide easily accessible and current information concerning prominent Africans, African organisations, and dates in the African calendar. This database has been growing continuously since its inception.

The Database is maintained by a small group of researchers at the Africa Centre who aim to promote positive awareness about Africa and to help to empower the African Diaspora in the UK while supporting the development aspirations found on the Continent. Currently the Database has 11,248 records in the People section, and 2,326 records in the Institutions section.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Database will provide this information, on African people, organisations and history, on one easily accessible site and presented in three sections:

This is billed as "A Who's Who of prominent Africans now living or who have died since 1950, in all fields of expertise, for example artists, political luminaries, scientists, business-people etc. This part of the Database is currently online.

Institution Africa
The Africa Centre says that the directory of African institutions includes governments, pan-African bodies, non-governmental organisations, and significant businesses. This segment of the Database is also currently online.

Chronology Africa
This segment presents a chronology of important events and dates in the contemporary African calendar. These include: political events, festivals, birthdays and commemorations. Chronology Africa is scheduled to be on line this year.

The aim of the people working on the Database is to publicise it as widely as possible, and to accept help from, and work with, all who are interested in order to enrich the information. Finally they want it to become a "skills database of Africans inside and outside the continent."

Individuals included in the "People," section are those who are born in Africa or have acquired African nationality, and are either living, or have died since 1950. Also, these individuals must have left a considerable legacy.

Organizations that are included in the Database must be active, have a physical presence in Africa and must not be a subsidiary of a non-African organization.

There are several categories and subcategories in the Database for each of the segments a few quick clicks of the mouse and you will see that you can search by Categories or Countries, and there is also a "New" section as well as a section on the institutions most visited. If you search by countries, institutions are listed alphabetically and individuals are placed under one of eight major heading: Arts, Business, Education (including Academia & Research), Media, Religion, Society, Politics & Governance and Sports.

The Contemporary Africa Database is a useful tool and I would encourage anyone to take a look at it to see if it can benefit you. It is located on the web at http://institutions.africadatabase.org/

And the Africa Centre can be found at: www.africacentre.org.uk

But if you ever find yourself in London's Covent Garden, stroll on over to 38 King Street and see what interesting things are going on at the Africa Centre.

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