Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi at the signing in ceremony. WAM
The gesture by the philanthropic organization Dubai Cares to contribute Dhs2,938,800 ($800,000) over four years to expand the reach of the International Publishers Association’s (IPA) programmes in Africa is praiseworthy.
Kenya and Morocco have been identified as initial focus countries, with other beneficiary countries to be announced at a later stage.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed to this effect by Sheikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President of the IPA, and Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares.
Under the terms of the agreement, IPA and Dubai Cares will be working with a range of on-the-ground partners, including publishers, policymakers, and civil society, to implement innovative, replicable solutions to transform the future of African publishing.
Commenting on the new partnership, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi said, “Our work in Africa is based on quickly moving from words to action.”
That is the key word: action. And the IPA has shown it.
In 2018, the IPA started its Africa Seminar series, which has evolved into a continent-wide, multi-sectoral platform for creative thinking, collaboration, and action to shape the future of African publishing. Through IPA’s seminars and cooperation with entities such as Dubai Cares, it is piloting innovative, replicable solutions to the African publishing industry’s most pressing challenges, while supporting sustainable development.
The African publishing industry has enormous potential for the future, including building essential cultural bridges with the rest of the world.
Last year, speaking to some of the most influential figures in publishing during the IPA Seminar in Lagos, Nigeria, on the sidelines of the Nigeria International Book Fair, Sheikha Bodour highlighted the major challenges and opportunities that could dictate the future of the industry across Africa.
The seminar focused on the importance of African publishing and catering for a market where readers worldwide are seeking more diverse voices and books and becoming increasingly interested in other cultures, countries, ideas and lifestyles.
Rough estimates of Africa’s publishing market say it is worth more than one billion dollars with more than 500 million book-buyers. The market is showing a cumulative annual growth of 6%.
Sheikha Bodour added, “I am truly in awe of the quality of the discussions, the quality of the writers, and the quality of the creative industry talent coming out of Nigeria and Africa. I think the rest of the world has to start paying attention to the stories and beautiful art coming out of this region and they deserve our respect, our appreciation and our support.”
Writers from Africa have made an impression on literature as such, and even Western minds. Nigerian writer Chimamanda NgoziAdichie was described in The Times Literary Supplement as “the most prominent” of a “procession of critically acclaimed young anglophone authors [who] is succeeding in attracting a new generation of readers to African literature.” She has written the novels Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun (2006), and Americanah (2013), plus the well-known short story collection The Thing Around Your Neck.
Or take Somali novelist Nuruddin Farah, for instance, whohas written plays both for stage and radio, along with short stories and essays.
Publishing, literacy, and access to books are the vital elements of success in life. Strong publishing industries and national cultures of reading are the pillars of socio-economic development and critical to progress.