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African Union

  1. Nkonko M. Kamwangamalu

Published Online: 5 NOV 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal0013

The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics

How to Cite

Kamwangamalu, N. M. 2012. African Union. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 5 NOV 2012


The year 2010 marked a milestone for the majority of African nations, as most of them celebrated the 50th anniversary of political independence and liberation from former Western colonial powers. However, as Fishman (1996, p. 5) remarks, “although the lowering of one flag and the raising of another may indicate the end of colonial status, these acts do not necessarily indicate the end of imperialist privilege in neo-colonial disguise.” In Africa, imperialist privilege is on display especially through former colonial languages such as English, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, for they remain the chief if not exclusive medium through which African nations conduct official business in virtually all the institutions of the state, including the government and administration, the educational system, and the media. In this regard, Popham (1996) notes forcefully that while the engine of colonialism long ago ran out of steam, the momentum of its languages remains formidable, and it is against their tyranny that smaller languages fight to survive. Colonialism, says London (2003), is a state of mind in colonizer and colonized alike. It does not end when the colonists go home. Instead, it remains an unfinished business and a footprint, impacting as it does all aspects of a postcolonial polity's life, including language policy. This entry reviews the language policy statements that the African continent has made, through its institutions such as the African Union, to change the status quo and carve a place for indigenous African languages, especially in the educational system. This is done against the background of the ideologies that have informed language policies in Africa from the colonial era to the present, especially the ideology of development on the one hand, and the ideology of decolonization on the other. It argues that Africa's language policy statements remain symbolic at best, and that their only merit lies in the fact that they have helped to keep the debate on language policy in Africa alive. It argues further that language policy makers need to do more than merely make policy statements if Africa's indigenous languages are to break through and become free from the shackles of neo-colonialism and former colonial languages. The entry concludes with suggestions as to how the breakthrough can be achieved, drawing on previous work on the role of African languages vis-à-vis former colonial languages in the educational system (Kamwangamalu, 1997, 2004).


  • Central Africa;
  • Eastern Africa;
  • language planning;
  • language policy;
  • Southern Africa;
  • Western Africa