The Digitise Africa Trust

Some years ago, Africa Media Online was involved in establishing the independent not-for-profit Digitise Africa Trust. By January 2020, however, the Trust was fully operational with its own independent Board of Trustees and its own bank account.

The Vision of the Digitise Africa Trust is to enable the digital preservation of and access to primary source materials for enabling Africans to tell Africa’s story. Such primary source material includes both cultural and natural history collections that have significance to the African story. Many significant collections of cultural and natural history are under threat on the African continent and elsewhere whether from war, pests, lack of resources for their preservation or otherwise. In addition, significant African collections are no longer available to Africans as they reside in institutions in other parts of the World, particularly as a result of the colonial project, and thus are not readily available to Africans who want to tell Africa’s story, particularly for use in institutions of learning, academic pursuit and scholarly publication.


Bongani Mnguni sorting his photographic collection, Roodepoort, 2019. Africa Media Online, through the Digitise Africa Trust, has been involved in digitising the photographic collection of legendary Johannesburg photographer, Bongani Mnguni, who sadly passed away soon after this photograph was taken.

The objectives of the Digitise Africa Trust, therefore are to:

1. Make significant African cultural and natural heritage collections available in digital form to an African audience primarily, although not exclusively, for educational and academic purposes for the betterment of African communities and societies. Toward this end, the Digitise Africa Trust is set up to:
1.1 raise funds to achieve this objective; and
1.2 pursue a range of activities and funding models that enable the sustaining of African digital collections toward the goal of enabling open access for educational, academic and research purposes.

2. Identify significant cultural and natural heritage collections that are either:
2.1 under threat and need intervention to preserve them; or
2.2 they are not accessible and need intervention to make them accessible; or
2.3 they are scattered and need intervention to gather them digitally, making a more complete story accessible

3. Commission work that enables:
3.1 the digital capture and cataloguing of such collections;
3.2 the digital preservation of the said digitised or born-digital collections;
3.3 the enabling of access to the said digital collections;
3.4 the digital curation of the said digital collections; and
3.5 the promotion of the resultant digital collections and resources within Africa primarily for open access for use in educational and academic pursuits


Participants at the Introduction to IIIF Workshop as part of the Heritage Digital Campus. The Heritage Digitial Campus 2019 at UKZN Pietermaritzburg Campus was the first event that the Digitise Africa Trust participated in. Front left is Glen Robson, Technical Lead from the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). This was the first IIIF event in Africa.

The beneficiaries of the Digitise Africa Trust will be the custodians of African collections where the collections in their keeping are deemed by the Digitise Africa Trust to be worthy of digital preservation and enabling access to an African audience. Such beneficiaries may be individuals, organisations, institutions, not-for-profit organisations and may even include for-profit organisations provided that the collections in their keeping are available for digital preservation and for open access for education, research and academic purposes.

The primary way in which beneficiaries will benefit from the Digitise Africa Trust is the funding of:
•    the digitisation of analogue collections and digital processing of born-digital collections,
•    the cataloguing of the resultant digital collections and
•    digital preservation, access and promotion of the resultant digital collections.

If you would like to support the work of the Digitise Africa Trust or you have a worthy project that the Trust should be looking at undertaking, please be in touch with David Larsen on