Rationale for the Urban Resource Center of Burkina Faso
The decision to build a website on urban resources on Burkina Faso stemmed from personal observation about the scarcity and dispersal of urban resources in Burkina Faso. During the summer of 2009, I had the opportunity to visit the various libraries in the city of Ouagadougou, which hosts the most important libraries in the country. The purpose was to do archival research on urban development and redevelopment. as part of my doctoral research. Fieldwork observations revealed that there was no specific physical urban resource center or library nor electronic library specialized in urban resources where one can easily access such resources on urban issues affecting the country.
There are a couple of websites but their main objectives are not to collect specific urban-related documents (urban policies, urban master plans, scholarly research, articles, best practices on urban policies and planning on urban issues, etc.) to make them readily available to users. Some documents on urban policies on Burkina Faso could be found on google and university-based electronic resources, UN-Habitat, etc. Other online websites in Burkina include: the websites of the Ministry of Urbanism and Habitat <http://www.mhu.gov.bf/>, SONATUR <http://sonatur.org/>, CEGIC <http://www.cegeci.bf/>, project ZACA <http://www.projetzaca.bf/>, and the most recent website on September 1st flood in 2009 <http://www.inondationsauburkina.net/>. The Ministry of Urbanism and Habitat’s online document section and online database <http://www.mhu.gov.bf/SiteMhu/base-urbaines/index.html> only have a couple of documents: (1) plots zoned in 2006 in Burkina Faso, and (2) plot statistics in Bobo area (the second major city in Burkina Faso). As for the Directorate for Habitat and Housing Promotion <http://www.dphl.bf/> while it is supposed to host online documentation on urbanization in Burkina, it only has five documents under its documentation online section. Such documents are often limited to administrative forms with no substantial information. Further, some major cities such as Ougadougou, Bobo-Dioulasso, Koudougou, Ouahygouya, Kaya, etc. have some websites managed by their townhalls.
In fact, urban resources are dispersed throughout the following libraries and documentation centers: the main library of the University of Ouagadougou and its annexes, the documentation center of the Ministry of Habitat and Urban Development, CILSS’s documentation center, CREPA’s center of documentation, ISSP’s library, INSS’s library, CRNST’s library, the French Cultural Center’s library, IRD’s library, etc. Though these centers have urban resources, they are still not specialized in gathering urban resources. The Ministry of Habitat and Urban Development owns a small and poorly equipped library/documentation center located at the Directorate of Urbanization in Gounghin neighborhood. But its limited capacity rather gives the impression of a personal office library. It is therefore important to have an Urban Resource Center as a supplement to these libraries and documentation centers to enrich access to and use of urban resources in the country. The dispersal of urban resources and the lack of a specialized urban resource center led to this decision: creating an online urban resource center for all researchers, scientists, journalists, students who may be interested in urban policies and urban issues affecting Burkina Faso in particular. Such an online resource center is opened to all scholars who may want to share their findings, and make recommendations on interesting urban resources. Though this site is in English, I strongly encourage researchers and participants to post their ideas and reflections on urban issues and policies in French as well.
In an increasingly electronic and technological world, scholars and people from different backgrounds have found ways of communicating, producing and sharing knowledge. It is against this background that the Urban Resource Center of Burkina Faso is set up to foster a collaborative online environment for all scholars interested in past and present urban issues on Burkina Faso in particular, and in Sub-Saharan Africa in general. Its ambition is to facilitate online dialogue among Burkinabe and African scholars as well as their Africanist colleagues from the Global North. It strongly believes that access to knowledge and information is key to any form of development. Facilitating access to knowledge should be part of our scholarly duties and responsibilities. Access to information is part of human rights.
While some established Africanists have found ways to express their views on Africa via often Western-based publication industries and libraries, African scholars are still struggling to voice their findings and to make them globally and locally accessible to their fellow citizens and colleagues. Such a situation may give the impression of the lack of serious research on the African continent. Yet, IT IS NOT the case! Communication and Collaboration are key to the production and dissemination of knowledge. This project therefore seeks to find answers to questions such as: How scholars sharing research and geographic areas of interest, can exchange their ideas and experiences? What resources (both human and material resources) can they recommend to any scholars working in the same geographic area? Who worked and/or is working on what, when and where? Answers to such simple questions are traditionally found in library/archival research, but when libraries or archives are locally non-existent or quasi non-existent or poorly equipped, scholars or researchers often return to the Global North's archives to find answers to local problems. The difficult access to and dispersal of urban resources in Burkina Faso gave birth to this project, which aims to establish dialogue and collaboration among insider and outsider scholars working on urban issues on Burkina for a fruitful, instructive and constructive knowledge production and dissemination. Last, but not least, this virtual online resource center also seeks to provide a platform for democratizing knowledge on urbanization which is becoming one of the major socio-economic problem of Burkina Faso in particular and Sub-Saharan Africa in general.
Even though this project currently focuses on Burkina Faso, its ambition is to become a comprehensive online urban resource center on Sub-Saharan Africa. But this can only become a reality if you and any other scholars are willing to join in making knowledge production, sharing and dissemination as part of your scholarly project. Now is the time to act, and not to wait and see others do it for you! You can contribute by submitting your short bio and areas of interest, or by posting your articles and thoughts, joining the blog, or proposing any ideas to improve the website as a collaborative, productive and constructive knowledge sharing space.