James Lowry, the Secretary of ICA’s award-winning Africa Programme, has stepped down after seven years of service. His generosity in providing his expertise and sharing his knowledge of the African stakeholder constituency, experience of archives and records management work there and his strategic, policy development and planning skills have been the single most significant contributing factor to the Programme’s success. From his initiation of the survey which underpinned the initial draft of the Africa Strategy and his authorship of the related Workplan during 2014 and 2015 to the delivery of each work item in the intervening years, his leadership of the Programme has been both measured and formidable. His leadership tenure of the Africa Programme culminated in late 2020 in the Digital Records Curation Programme receiving the “Teaching and Communications” Digital Preservation Award as well as the NDSA Innovation Award for 2020. James conceived the Digital Records Curation Programme to develop materials and a study school to build capacity among early-career archival educators to teach practical digital recordkeeping to their students. This in turn will allow the profession to build its own corpus of expertise in this crucial area of competency. James led on the applications and ensured that they evidenced the excellence of the project in the context of the Africa Programme.
As he departs from the Secretary’s role, ICA’s Programme Commission (PCOM) takes great satisfaction from the progress that has been made. We can see more proactive participation by African members in ICA’s conferences and expert groups. We see new networks of upcoming archival educators flourishing and volunteering their own expertise not only back to the Africa Programme but also to the Training Programme. We have seen real changes in the status of Cameroon’s National Archives thanks in great part to the opportunity recognised for ICA’s Africa Strategy when an ICA team attended a regional information management conference in Yaoundé in 2015. It was possible to hold consultation meetings with both French and English-speaking stakeholders in African archives. ICA also held its own Annual Conference in Cameroon in 2018, the first one to take place in Africa. All of these are proof that PCOM’s aspiration to respond to ICA’s African members and make a difference to Africa’s archives and archival workforce has been realised in a way that has focused on empowerment and collaboration.
PCOM is very grateful to James Lowry for all he has done to make the first phase of ICA and PCOM’s Africa Strategy such a resounding success. The Africa Programme is now being coordinated by Basma Makhlouf-Shabou and Cleophas Ambira, leading respectively on the Francophone and Anglophone strands. They both bring a wealth of professional, pedagogical and practical experience of working in the African archives and records management field as well as serving for many years as part of ICA’s network of volunteers. The PCOM team offers them all the support they need and wishes them and the programme every success.