Manka Angwafo has a voice for radio, a brain for business and a waist to rival Audrey Hepburn. She is the founder of Hadithi, a new e-library designed to cater to Kenyan scholars. On the Hadithi (Story) infomercial, Angwafo explains, “Annually, less than three articles per scholar are downloaded from data bases despite the fact that about 70 percent of the community, searches the internet three to five times a week for academic content.” Five weeks since going live, the library has 300 publications and is expecting more than 5000 public policy briefs from the World Bank in March.
These resources are available online for free while publishers pay to appear on the site. At the Hadithi launch, the project received lots of praise and support from some of the bigger global players. Google's Sub-Saharan African Ambassador, Mr Joe Mucheru and the Regional Director of Creative Commons, Alex Gakuru, spoke on the importance of open access and finding a business model that works. The Permanent Secretary for Information and Communication, Dr. Ndemo Bitange, spoke of giving Hadithi access to public policy documents. “Hadithi is not just a knowledge tool, it’s also an accountability tool,” Manka said. “Through it, Africans can access public information and local research, keeping them aware of how government policy and research address local challenges.Starting something that’s Pan African has to happen in a hub that is recognized as a leader in technology and economic growth. Unfortunately, [Cameroon] is not there yet,” states the American born, Cameroonian-Jamaican to explaining why she choose Kenya, over her homeland to launch the initiative.
Manka, a former World Bank research assistant, has also worked on Wall Street and at a boutique investment bank in Paris. She did a double major in International Relations and Economics at Tufts University, in Massachusetts,and has a Master’s degree in European Business. Having researched the viability of this project since November 2011 and subsequently moving to Nairobi in February 2012, Manka explains that, “A lot of people don’t know where to go for research.They go to Google. [It] doesn’t have local research which is usually the most relevant research for a student here.”
Manka, who is a published author, credits her father, a researcher and physician, as her main inspiration for starting Hadithi. “Having access [to information] can affect so many paths in people’s lives that [are] unknown to them”, she says. “Education is not meant for people to get jobs, education is meant for you to be critically conscious, to think analytically and to solve problems.” Hadithi is positioning itself as a leader of locally relevant information. Visit the site at www.hadithi.org
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