African Union recognizes Kiswahili

August 2004 -

The African Union (AU) has recognized Kiswahili as an official language. Up to now the Union, with which 53 African countries are affiliated, has communicated in Arabic, French, English and Portuguese. Kiswahili is spoken by a hundred million people in eastern and southern Africa. It is the official language of Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda.

Ten per cent of the people who speak Kiswahili have access to a computer. At the end of 2004, Microsoft made software available in Kiswahili. The company also plans to issue Windows in other African languages. The IT giant says that it wants to increase the accessibility of the technology by doing this and to prevent local languages from being swallowed up by English.

Microsoft has pledged UNDP, the development branch of the United Nations, a billion dollars to help close the digital gap. The global local languages program is one of the strategies for this.