The article looks at contradictions facing libraries in Africa where the information and developmental needs of workers and peasants remain largely unmet, while libraries tend to meet the needs of a minority. It maintains that the model of public libraries remains the same as the one introduced by the colonial powers and the opportunity at independence for bringing about a change to a people-orientated service was lost. The profession remains aloof from the political and social struggles of communities, thus alienating itself from the very people it seeks to serve. The article sees opportunities now for change in some positive aspects of globalisation and in developments in information and communications technology. The rise of China can create new possibilities for change. It calls for information professionals to be activists in information as well as in social and political struggles of people. They need to work with communities in partnership with other service providers. It makes the point that the profession is not neutral if it supports the status quo by remaining silent on social and political issues. The article calls for action to put ideas and new vision into practice and gives some details about the Progressive African Library and Information Activists’ Group (PALIAct) proposal which aims to create an alternative vision, strategy and practice of a people-orientated service in active partnership with communities and service providers. The article calls upon countries which benefited from African slave trade to support initiatives such as PALIAct as a small way of acknowledging their debt to Africa. It ends by providing elements for an “African activist information programme”, including suggestions for leadership development, collection building and “liberating the mind” collections.