Dr Rafael James , from Nigeria

Turning Nigeria into a reading nation

Growing up, Dr. Raphael James wanted to be a performing artist and represented Nigeria as a dancer in 1984 at an International Dance Competition. He then switched gears and took up professional boxing for five years. Since completing his educational degrees in Psychology, Journalism, and Conflict Resolution, Dr. Raphael James has devoted his life to enriching the lives of younger generations through self-funded initiatives.

Noticing a dearth in Information Management and documentation in Nigeria, he set up his own research organization called the Center for Research, Information Management, and Media Development (CRIMMD). Using the funds raised from his research contracts, Dr. Raphael James set up his own free public library and the largest free photo museum in Nigeria. To date, his photo museum displays more than 30,000 photographs of Nigerian history.

He has spent his lifetime collecting photographs and uncovering widely undocumented history of Nigeria to give youth an accurate representation of their nation’s history. He donated more than 40,000 books to the public through his library, to help set up other libraries across the country. When the AJALA project sat down with Dr. Raphael and asked about his biggest motivators, he mentioned that more and more students are passing their examinations and are able to discover more opportunities through the books available to them from his library.

Dr. Raphael wants to encourage Nigeria to become a reading nation. Due to severe shortage of libraries and locally prominent literary figures, Nigerian youth are disinclined to pick up a book and gather knowledge. His dream is to have a public library on every road in Nigeria. He believes that once Nigerian children start reading, they will be able to express themselves better and less prone to violence. He himself, has written and published 18 books, with 50 more books waiting to be published. Having imbibed his passion for reading and knowledge to his children, his first child became the youngest published author in Africa at the age of 6, after publishing a children’s storybook called ‘Freedom’. She is the second youngest published author in the world, his second daughter has also published a book while she was only 12.

Dr. Raphael has also set up a skills acquisition center for women. Since many women in his city are uneducated and have very little employment prospects, they are dependent on men to support them. When left abandoned with their children, many resort to prostitution to feed their families. Dr. Raphael strives to empower the women in his community and offers them free workshops on beads production, hair braiding, sewing, soap making, and cooking local delicacies. A staunch advocate of shared knowledge and gender equality, Dr. Raphael James is using his library to ensure equal opportunities for all.

He is currently on a self-funded tour of all the states in Nigeria to document all the natural and man-made wonders his nation has to offer and to promote tourism. He has also recently purchased some land and is working to build a zoological research garden. Dr. Raphael James is working as a key collaborator with the AJALA project to rediscover the legacy of Olabisi Ajala, whose travels was the inspiration behind the AJALA project. Dr. Raphael has been widely acknowledged in the global community and has received more than 70 awards for his contribution to society. We hope Dr. Raphael’s work inspires youth to actively seek and promote knowledge.