The Center for Research Libraries (CRL) conducted an assessment of African newspapers online to determine the extent to which those news sources are available in electronic format to researchers at North American institutions.
CRL’s survey found that only a fraction of African newspaper titles are currently available online. Of an estimated 1,300 titles in circulation throughout Africa, CRL found only 484 titles with some form of active online presence. While most top-circulating titles tend to post current news to their sites, the quality and range of current content ranges considerably. Few sites implement complex content management systems or advanced search capabilities. Electronic facsimiles of the print versions of titles are not yet widely available for African titles. Coverage of African titles is relatively sparse within aggregated databases, especially compared to titles from other world regions.
Taken as a whole, the survey suggests that heavy reliance on electronic access and large news packages may be insufficient to provide the same degree of support for African studies as newspaper collections have historically afforded. Nor do publishers and electronic aggregators today provide comparable online access to content formerly acquired by libraries in physical form. Aggregators, in particular, should improve coverage of sub-Saharan Africa to ensure that the range of content from this rich region is available to libraries and scholars worldwide.