Cultural Diversity and African Language Education: The Role of Urbanization and Globalization

Lydia Nyati-Saleshando


The African Union has been committed to the development and promotion of African languages for a long time. This is in cognizance of the fact that, language is the DNA of culture and its vehicle of expression. The Languages Plan of Action which was first adopted in 1986 and reviewed in 2006 outlines clear goals to be achieved by member states in the promotion and recognition of African languages. The Plan for all its intents and purposes has good will for the development and use of African languages in critical social domains such as education, trade, government and media. The Policy Guide on the Integration of African Languages and Cultures into the Education systems adopted in 2010 and Aspirations 3 and 5 on Agenda 2063 are clear examples of such good intentions.  On the other hand, practice continues to show very little, if any, improvement in the development and use of African languages in these critical domains. Scholars have explored several reasons why African languages continue to have low socio-economic status (Bamgbose (2011), Batibo (2013), Nyati-Ramahobo (2011), Chebanne, 2010). Globalization and urbanization have been described to be among the many factors responsible for this state of affairs. This paper aims to explore these two factors to see how they contribute to language under-utilization and the inherent loss of African languages.  Are globalization and urbanization by nature detrimental to language diversity resulting in language loss? The paper concludes that urbanization and globalization are facilitators of language and cultural diversity. However, it is policy frameworks operating on and in Africa which shape values and attitudes against the use of African languages. These policy frameworks are politically driven by multi-national corporations for economic exploitation of Africa.

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