Much of the work undertaken by CASAS has been informed by an acute sense of history, including colonial interest in, and influence on, the language landscape in Africa. Thus, many of its initiatives are premised on the idea that clustering African speech-forms into sets that display an 85% level of inter-comprehension makes it possible for the majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa to be reached via texts written in harmonised orthographies or spelling systems.
Given sub-Saharan Africa’s current population of 1.1 billion (projected to hit 2.3 billion by the year 2055), the effectiveness and efficiencies that this singular vision unlocks are enormous. There are implications for: market economics, the deployment of human talent/capacity, mass literacy and education, publishing, extension services in agriculture and health, mass mobilisation, indigenous scholarship, intra-African trade, development of information and communication technologies, and so on. This is of course besides the journeys of self-rediscovery and identity that the vision catalyses.
The core activities of CASAS include the harmonisation and standardisation of language orthographies; promotion of local languages in basic education; production and dissemination of literacy textbooks, textbooks for citizenship education, vocational and out of school training; research on African linguistics and language policies, and organisation of workshops, conferences, seminars and colloquia on various topics related to language and development. The activities include publications of books on aspects of linguistics and sociolinguistics written by individual authors or as editions of papers presented at conferences, workshops and seminars; monographs which include the orthographies and informative texts on matters of concern to the general public such as technology, health, agriculture and social issues as well as on education and linguistics; notes and records which predominantly cover areas of linguistics; primers and readers for use in schools; glossaries, monolingual dictionaries in African languages and grammars and descriptive analysis of African languages – especially those written in African languages.