Insights from AITCO2020

I recently had the opportunity to attend the second Africa International Translation Conference in Arusha, Tanzania. According to my African friends in the industry AITCO2019 resulted in valuable connections and insights, so it was with much anticipation that I booked my ticket on Kenya Airlines.

AITCO 2020 was attended by 80 delegates, the majority of whom were from Africa and specifically East Africa. But there were also delegates from various European countries, as well as South America. This diverse group made for lots of interesting views and also lots of fun.

The conference started with an opening dinner on the Thursday evening ─ only about an hour or so after my arrival in Arusha. This fast start set the pace for the rest of the conference. With roughly 10-12 sessions per day, and more than 30 presentations in total, our schedule was jam-packed. All additional time was spent catching up with friends and meeting new delegates. Networking isn’t my forte, so this was quite exhausting!

Insights from AITCO2020

The official opening on Friday morning was conducted by the leaders of the East Africa Interpreters and Translators Association (EAITA), who were also the organisers. In typical African fashion this included vibrant song and dance.

This was followed by an address by the keynote speaker, Dr Pendo Malangwa of the University of Dar es Salaam and Kevin Quirk, president of the International Federation of Translators (FIT).

With all the formalities done, it was time to get started. Topics covered during the conference included everything from subtitling Kannywood (the Hausa subdivision of Nollywood) movies to the complexity of cultural references (a Somali shaking his head up and down doesn’t mean “yes”, it actually means “no”), to neural machine translations. Talking points were as diverse as the delegates, so there was something for each of us to take away at the end.

AITCO2020 taught me the following:

  • Compared to other African countries, South Africa’s translation industry is well-regulated and efficient. This includes SATI (South African Translators’ Institute), many excellent tertiary translation and interpreting degrees and courses, and FOLIO ONLINE of course.
  • Translators and translation agencies face similar struggles around the world.
  • Africa as a translation market has endless potential, but success will depend on our willingness to adapt to technology, develop skills and be pro-active. If the translation industry can keep up with the projected growth in Africa, the sky is the limit.
  • Translators are not going to disappear. Our roles may change over time, but the human component will always be needed.
  • Lastly I remain amazed by the interesting and intelligent people in our industry.

I left AITCO 2020 with fond memories and new friendships.