Video about the Funding of Open Access Articles

Open Access in African Studies

The field of African studies encompasses interdisciplinarily oriented area studies on Africa in the humanities, the social sciences, and cultural studies. Depending on the discipline (ethnology, political science, linguistics), developments in the area of open access correspond to those in the respective disciplinary cultures: whereas open access often plays only a minor role in many humanities disciplines, developments in linguistics are certainly more dynamic.

For a long time, printed monographs and edited volumes were the primary form of publication in African studies. However, in recent years, the importance of (online) journals has increased greatly. For Africanists, the prestige of a journal is still often the decisive selection criterion. This holds true both for disciplinary and interdisciplinary journals. The Journal Impact Factor is gaining in importance, although it is demonstrably unsuitable for the evaluation of Africa-related publications (Association for African Studies in Germany [VAD], 2019).

The spread of forms of open access publication is of particular importance for African studies, as print publications of African publishers are often difficult to access because of inadequate distribution opportunities. Moreover, publications from the Global North are often difficult to access on the African continent because of the publishers’ high prices and distribution channels. Besides the use of green open access, the expansion of diamond open access offerings is of particular importance in this context, especially because of the obstacles that open access publication fees represent for authors from the Global South.

Despite these circumstances, open access is still somewhat underrepresented in African studies compared with other disciplines, although there are now several important initiatives for the promotion of open access in African studies, for example the African Principles for Open Access in Scholarly Communication in and about Africa. The repository AfricArXiv is another important initiative (see the Disciplinary Repositories section on this page). Best-practice examples of open access were presented in 2017 within the framework of a workshop organised by the Specialised Information Service (FID) African Studies (VAD, 2017). Moreover, in the African Studies Toolbox, the FID African Studies regularly presents relevant information on open access, for example a series on the Zweitveröffentlichungsrecht – that is, the right under German Copyright Law to make the post-print of a scholarly publication available to the public 12 months after first publication – as well as information on open access initiatives of publishers with series of relevance to African studies. The latter initiatives are discussed in more detail in the Open Access Books section on this page.

Open Access Journals 

Because African studies is an interdisciplinary field, there is no specific keyword for searching in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). With 115 titles as of February 2022, journals from South Africa are particularly well represented, while 20 journals could be found under the keyword African studies.

Important open access journals include:

The open access journals of the Dakar-based Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) – for example Africa Development, African Sociological Review, African Journal of International Affairs, and Afrika Zamani – are among the pioneers of open access in African studies. They are available together with all back issues on the CODESRIA website.

The journal Africa Spectrum has been published by the GIGA Institute for African Affairs (IAA) since 1966. Through financial support from the Federal Foreign Office, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), and the city of Hamburg, it is available in open access at SAGE. Since 2003, the journal has collaborated closely with the Association for African Studies in Germany (VAD). Members of VAD support this collaboration as editors, as members of the editorial board, as authors, and in the peer review procedure. Moreover, a subscription to the print edition is included in VAD membership (dual publishing).

African Journals Online (AJOL) is a South African online service to provide access to African-published research, which lists 306 open access journals as of February 2022. Sabinet, also based in South Africa, provides access to selected full text African journals from or about Africa and as of February 2022 they list 117 open access journals.

Global Africa is a pan-African, international journal dedicated to the expression, dissemination and the quest of excellence in the humanities and social sciences research on the African continent and its diaspora. Global Africa is available online free of charge, in full text, as soon as it is published, on Global Africa’s website with no charge to the reader and no Article Processing Charge (APC) for authors and their institutions, according to the "Diamond Open Access" model.

Open Access Books 

The Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) listed 12 titles under the keyword Africa and 54 titles under African history as of February 2022. In addition, there are open access books in African linguistics, for example those published by Language Science Press.

As of February 2022, OAPEN listed the same 12 titles under Africa; the number of titles listed under African History was 51. On the Open Book Publishers website, search results under the keyword Africa include titles from various disciplines.

In addition, there is a series of open access books in the African Studies Collection of the publisher Routledge that were unlocked in collaboration with Knowledge Unlatched. The Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies (AEGIS) publishes a book series with the publisher Brill. Books in the series are available in open access, albeit after an embargo period of two years. In addition to the titles published with Brill, CODESRIA lists a large number of other open access book titles on its website.

African Minds is a not-for-profit, open access publisher of scholarly books based in Cape Town, South Africa. African Minds publishes predominantly in the social sciences and humanities.

Disciplinary Repositories 

The most important repository of African studies is AfricArXiv, a freely accessible digital archive for African and Africa-related research hosted by the Open Science Framework (OSF). It offers a platform for working papers, preprints, and accepted manuscripts (post-prints). There are also options for linking research data and code and for article versioning. AfricArXiv is multidisciplinary, but because of its focus on research from Africa, it is a valuable resource for African Studies.

The International African Institute (IAI) in London has produced an interactive map of digital repositories in Africa in collaboration with AfricArXiv. This interactive map identifies and lists institutional repositories in Africa. It builds on earlier work by the IAI that focused on identifying repositories at African university libraries, and it also includes other institutions and their document servers, for example national and international repositories. Moreover, it maps the interactions between the research repositories.

An overview of repositories on the African continent is also provided by the Open Directory of Open Access Repositories (OpenDOAR) in its country overview.

Other Offerings

The Specialised Information Service (FID) African Studies at the University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg in Frankfurt am Main offers the African studies community an OJS Hosting-Service that provides support in establishing an open access journal. This service includes both the technical provision, maintenance, and regular updating of OJS on a permanently available server as well as advice on and practical support for the conceptual design and the creation of the journal(s).


Further Reading

  • Bezuidenhout, L., Havemann, J., Kitchen, S., De Mutiis, A., & Owango, J. (2020). African Digital Research Repositories: Mapping the Landscape [Data set]. Zenodo.
  • Bezuidenhout, L., Havemann, J., Kitchen, S., De Mutiis, A., & Owango, J. (2020). African Digital Research Repositories: Mapping the Landscape [preprint]. Zenodo.

Content editor of this page: Dr Anne Schumann-Douosson, Specialised Information Service (FID) African Studies (Last updated: February 2022)