Jul 3, 2017

Something new out of Africa!

Guest contribution by Obi Udeariri
Photographs provided by Sameh Ragab/EAITA

Many years ago, Pliny the Elder declaimed Ex Africa semper aliquid novi  – "(There's) always something new (coming) out of Africa". He was referring to the continent’s diverse natural resources, but that phrase has come true yet again, because something new has again come out from Africa with respect to its diverse human resources, Homo Africanus interpres.

Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and the jewel of East Africa; the stomping ground of the famed Kenyan writers Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o and Grace Ogot and the Nobel laureate Wangari Muta Maathai. With its temperate climate and lush wildlife, it’s a favorite holiday destination for hundreds of thousands of tourists each year, who come to enjoy its excellent hospitality and numerous attractions. It’s also home to the African headquarters of the United Nations and another emerging international organization – the East African Interpreters and Translators Association.

The EAITA was formed barely a year ago, with a membership comprising language professionals from across East Africa, and in its brief life it’s already held two major events aimed at boosting professional competence, featuring outstanding keynote speakers from abroad. This year’s event was held on Saturday 1st July, was focused on the use of CAT tools to promote productivity, and was deftly and professionally handled by Sameh Ragab, a vastly experienced translation professional, CAT tools trainer, and certified United Nations Vendor, who graciously gave his audience the benefit of this extensive experience at no cost.

Technology guru Sameh Rageb of Egypt - a favorite teacher at conferences around the world!
The uptake and use of CAT tools and other cutting edge techniques and the interest in doing so is widespread. This was shown by the mini-summit nature of the event whose attendees came from all across East Africa, from Kenya itself, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania and from as far afield as the lush and steamy tropical nation of Nigeria. An accentologist would have had a field day.

The immense expansion of language services occasioned by new communication methods and technology has definitely not passed Africa by, contrary to what some may think. African countries have largely overcome their infrastructural issues, and language professionals are busy tapping away, chuchotant in interpreting booths, leveraging latest software for transcription, project management and other needs and are doing all this in real-time, backed up by IT infrastructure to match the best in other countries.

Translation and interpreting have always been a part of life in African countries. Given the continent's ethnically heterogeneous communities and countries, there has always been a need to convey meaning in written or oral form between its peoples, and the average language professional here (who is usually already natively bilingual in one or more of its lingua francas or native languages) is simply taking this inbuilt familiarity with language manipulation to the next level.

In view of the nearly full turnout of EAITA members and the interest generated by this event, international language service providers would do well to screw their monocles firmly in place and divert some of their flighty attention towards the continent’s language professionals. Not as a source of cheap labor, but rather in search of skilled, competent, thoroughbred professionals whose skills and expertise are on a par with anything obtainable worldwide, and whose diverse peoples speak, read, write, translate and interpret an equally diverse range of languages with proficiency including lingua francas such as Swahili, English, Arabic, French, Spanish, Hausa, Igbo and many, many more.

Congratulations to the EAITA for the successful event, which was also supported by the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters; I’m looking forward to more new, good things coming out of Africa!

Focused on the future.


Obi Udeariry is a specialized legal translator who translates all kinds of legal documents from French, German and Dutch to English. He has a law degree and several translation certifications and has been a full-time freelance translator for 14 years. 

He is the Head of the Nigerian chapter of the International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI), and lives in Lagos, Nigeria with his wife and two sons.


  1. This is wonderful! It's good to know that Translators in Africa are moving forward. We in Nigeria and West Africa hope to catch up with Kenya and East Africa very soon. We've already joined the race, and we will surely get there. Kudos to the pioneers, EAITA!

  2. Autshumato is a series of open-source (free) translation tools, which were funded by the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC). These tools are developed and managed by the Centre for Text Technology (CTexT®) at the North-West University in South Africa and include:

    The Autshumato Integrated Translation Environment (ITE) is a software program with a translation memory, machine translation capabilities and glossaries to help translators with the translation process. Although the Autshumato ITE has specifically been developed for the eleven official South African languages, it can be adapted for translation between any two languages.

    The Autshumato Terminology Management System (TMS) helps with the development of terminology databases which contain terminology from different languages. As this is a server based technology, TMS’s have to be custom developed per request.

    Machine Translation software which can be used to assist human translators in their work. Machine translation happens when computerised systems attempt to automate the translation process from one human language into another.

    Other resources that were developed as part of the Autshumato project include alignment software, a PDF Extractor and a text anonymiser to safeguard privacy when using the Authsumato ITE.

    The Autshumato ITE is already freely available for immediate use. Terminology and machine translation systems are server based and have to be custom developed. The South African Department of Arts and Culture currently uses such a custom developed TMS and machine translation systems for translation from English into Afrikaans, English into isiZulu and English into Sepedi.


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