An overview of institutional repositories in AfricaPublished by Alison Moore
This blog post was written by Ebenezer Kakra Acheampong, SFU Library co-op student
In recent times, the Web 2.0 features, such as easy information access, production, share, and (re) use of information, have contributed to significant changes in the way faculty and students access information through other people’s contributions (Tavares & Moreira, 2017). Thus, Open Access Institutional Repositories (OAIR) have brought about a culture of sharing and participation, and African scholars must take advantage of this. Although the right to access to knowledge is considered vital to African countries (Rens and Kahn, 2009), the slow pace of socio-economic and political development, for instance, in most African countries, is attributed to inadequate information and knowledge circulation (Ezema, 2013).
Barriers to publishing in open access institutional repositories
According to Fox and Hanlon (2015), issues such as language barriers, funding deficiencies, and technological shortfalls are all cited by researchers as reasons why the open access (OA) movement has failed to make its mark in so many African nations. This finding was confirmed by Ezema (2013) who discovered a lack of awareness of publishing in institutional repositories (IR), poor ICT infrastructure, poor funding of universities, availability of few institutional repositories (such as University of Ghana’s UGSpace and University of Cape Coast’s UCC IR), absence of institutional repository policies in universities, lack of adequate software for IR, low internet bandwidth and irregular power supply as the major problems of institutional repositories in Africa. These barriers are also in consonance with that of Christian (2008) who found a lack of awareness, few institutional repositories and poor ICT infrastructure as the greatest problems confronting institutional repositories in Africa.
Similarly, Kodua-Ntim and Fombad (2020) who conducted research on the strategies for the use of open access institutional repositories in Africa states that, generally, there is a slow uptake of institutional repositories due to inadequate advocacy, intellectual property rights and copyright issues, ICT connectivity and infrastructure, the institutional culture, OAIR policies, limited awareness of OAIR, inadequate funding of OAIRs, lack of reward systems and incentives, and inefficient power supply.
With the numerous struggles of most African countries, the above list is just a handful of the barriers to publishing in institutional repositories in Africa. Most African countries are noted to mostly encounter electric power surges, and that seems to be a major problem facing publishing in institutional repositories. Another key challenge is the lack of awareness (mostly due to inadequate advocacy) of institutional repositories by faculty and students in Africa. Though it is highly contestable in this modern era, the above goes to affirm the famous and general assertion that; “if you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book”. The reading culture, even though it has improved tremendously, is simply not good in Africa and most people will not explore the literature to discover information for themselves.
The lack of publishing by African faculty and students ensures that the very important local content is not well organized, digitized and made available to the global scholarly community. This hampers the visibility of scholarly research and the research impact of African authors. The lack of publishing by African authors also affects the webometric ranking of African universities. The major reason why African universities rank low among the universities in the world is because of the small number of African scholarly research available on the web (Ezema, 2013).
Some solutions and recommendations
The problem could be solved if libraries move their focus from their own needs to those of their faculty and students. Educational and research institutions are, however, yet to fully exploit the benefits provided by institutional repositories (Kodua-Ntim & Fombad, 2020).
Furthermore, advocacy is crucial to Open Access (OA) if the many cultural barriers linked to poor engagement and lack of awareness of OA’s benefits in Africa are to be overcome. African researchers’ fear of exploitation through the illegal use of their published works by readers and other researchers can be tackled by establishing further and more widely accessible education on Creative Commons (CC) licensing and the benefits of documentation as a means of securing intellectual property rights (Fox & Hanlon, 2015).
More so, Kodua-Ntim & Fombad (2020) suggests that African researchers and other stakeholders (such as research agencies) create a single African journal database, with its own impact factor that would more accurately reflect African research. Fox & Hanlon (2015) discuss integrating repositories with Web 2.0 capacity. If self-archiving and social media are used to disseminate and promote research, Web 2.0 generated altmetrics could potentially replace journal impact factors, and foster collaboration and sustainability through further development of local repositories.
Last but not least, the problem of ICT infrastructure and power surges in most parts of Africa can be resolved if African leaders prioritize and invest heavily into the procurement of ICT infrastructure and electricity generation.
Christian, G. E. (2008). “Issues and challenges to the development of open access institutional repositories in academic and research institutions in Nigeria”. Research paper, International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Ottawa.
Ezema, I. J. (2013). Local contents and the development of open access institutional repositories in Nigeria University libraries: Challenges, strategies and scholarly implications. Library Hi Tech. 31(2), 323–340. https://doi.org/10.1108/07378831311329086
Fox, M., & Hanlon, S. M. (2015). Barriers to Open Access uptake for researchers in Africa. Online Information Review. 39(5), 698–716. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-05-2015-0147
Kodua-Ntim, K., & Fombad, M. C. (2020). Strategies for the use of open access institutional repositories at universities in Ghana. Library Management. 41(6/7), 515–530. https://doi.org/10.1108/LM-02-2020-0023
Rens, A. & Kahn, R. (2009). “Access to knowledge in South Africa: part of the access to knowledge research series”. Retrieved October 22, 2022, from www.yaleisp.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/A2K-in-SA.pdf
Tavares, R., & Moreira, A. (2017). Implications of Open Access Repositories Quality Criteria and Features for Teachers' TPACK Development. Springer International Publishing AG. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-57916-0