The African Union has joined the campaigns to elevate Kiswahili as one of its common languages even as it prepares for heads of State meeting on 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.”
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 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.
The push to make Kiswahili a pan-African lingua franca comes as the bloc moves to set rules for the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA) unveiled in Kigali last year.
A committee of experts is working on the rules of origin to be applied by all the AfCTA signatories.
On Saturday, President Uhuru Kenyatta is expected to join other African leaders for the AU Extra-Ordinary Summit and the first AfCTA meeting in Niamey, Niger.
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.
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.