The International Publishers Association’s Seminar Series in Nairobi: ‘Africa Rising’

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

In June, the IPA’s seminar series for African publishing will address talent and readership development, digital opportunities, copyright protection, and more.

At the London Book Fair, a discussion on issues in publishing in Africa features Lawrence Njagi of the Kenya Publishers Association, left, and Gbadeba Adepapo of the Nigerian Publishers Association. Image: Nabs Ahmedi

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Creative Thinking, Collaboration, and Action’
The International Publishers Association‘s (IPA) June seminar in Nairobi is being devised as a two-day examination of challenges and opportunities in African publishing and its accelerating presence on the world stage.

Readers of Publishing Perspectives will recall that last year’s first IPA Africa seminar was staged in Lagos in cooperation with the Nigerian Publishers Association.

While at the London Book Fair, the Nigerian Publishers Association president Gbadega Adepapo–our 2018 interview with him is here–joined the Kenya Publishers Association‘s Lawrence Njagi to discuss issues and programming at the upcoming seminar series, which is set for June 14 and 15 in the Kenyan capital.

Adepapo, CEO of Rasmed Publications, is also an executive committee member of the IPA, and has been an outspoken champion for eradicating formidable levels of piracy in parts of Africa’s publishing markets. In fact, the second of the first day’s panel debates on the first day of the conference in June will look at “Copyright Protection and the Threat of Piracy,” getting quickly to the stubborn and sometimes ruinous means of near-institutionalized book and textbook piracy in some markets.

The program, however, as Njagi’s and Adepapo’s comments indicated in London, is a broad one, exploring current conditions and potentials in educational and commercial publishing, readership and data development, industry disruption and even the alarming rate at which some of the African continent’s roughly 3,000 languages are disappearing.

The event is titled “Africa Rising: Realizing Africa’s Potential as a Global Publishing Leader in the 21st Century.” Once opened on the 14th of June by IPA president Hugo Setzer and Kenya’s Njagi, a welcome to the assembly will be made by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, the award-winning author who now is a professor in English and comparative literature at the University of California Irvine.

As in the case of last year’s seminar in Lagos, leadership in designing the program has been taken by the United Arab Emirates’ Bodour Al Qasimi of Sharjah, the vice-president of the IPA. She will be joined in speaking by IPA’s Freedom to Publish committee chief Kristenn Einarsson of Norway and by the UK’s Gersy Ifeanyi Ejimofo, who is the founder of DigitalBack Books, an online library platform for literature from Africa and its diaspora.

A preliminary list of additional speakers includes:

  • Samuel Kolawole – chair, African Publishers Network (Nigeria)
  • Ernest Oppong – acting executive director, African Publishers Network (Ghana)
  • Anges Félix Ndakpri – president, Ivory Coast Publishers Association (Cote D’Ivoire)
  • Brian Wafawarowa – former President, Publishers Association of South Africa (South Africa)
  • Chidi and Chika Nwaogu – co-founders, Publiseer
  • Dora Susan Salamba-Makwinja – executive director of the Copyright Society of Malawi
  • Dr Alma-Nalisha Cele – co-founder of the Cheeky Natives (South Africa) books podcast
  • Khanya Mncwabe – center coordinator, PEN South Africa (South Africa)
  • John Mwazemba – general manager, Oxford University Press East Africa (Kenya)
  • Petina Gappah – author and attorney (Zimbabwe)
  • Elinor Sisulu – executive director of Puku Children’s Literature Foundation (South Africa)
Programming Elements: ‘To Transform the Future’

The prospectus for the 2019 Africa Seminar program of the International Publishers Association, distributed at the London Book Fair

A part of the programming on the second day of the event is to include an update on the “Lagos Action Plan” that was established at last year’s event by an eight-member working group.

A fireside chat will feature the World Intellectual Property Organization’s (WIPO) Sylvie Forbin and Marisella Ouma, formerly the executive director of the Kenya Copyright Board. That session is followed by an extensive copyright workshop.

The IPA is also concretizing its commitment to its still relatively new African outreach. Begun with the 2018 Lagos event, the program is being positioned as a series devoted to “transforming the future of Africa publishing.” The mission is big, and ambitious.

Sponsorship is coming in from Frankfurter Buchmesse, the Association of American Publishers, the London Book Fair, the UK’s Publishers Association, the Emirates Publishers Association, Copyright Clearance Center, Sharjah Publishing City (the publishing trade zone gateway development in the UAE), and Nielsen BookScan.

“In just one year,” according to the IPA’s media messaging, “the Africa seminar series has evolved into a continent-wide, multi-sectoral platform for creative thinking, collaboration, and action to shape the future of African publishing.

“What differentiates the seminar series is its focus on near-term impact. This focus on moving from words to action is captured in seminar-specific action plans which gain consensus on key industry challenges and identify scalable pilot projects as possible solutions.”

And those just starting to look at the program’s development may be surprised at some of the elements of the attributes of the vast construct of African markets and what they offer.

  • Africa’s digitally engaged populations have some of the fastest mobile and Internet connectivity growth rates in the world
  • The United Nations estimates that nearly 60 percent of Africa’s aggregate population is under age 24

“Africa’s youth bulge” in the demographic charts “can be catalyst for the future of African publishing and accelerated social and economic development,” the IPA’s outlook has it.

While as many as 600 attendees from some 50 countries are anticipated to participate, the IPA currently is helping to lead the drive for registration particularly by members of the publishing communities and creative industries of Africa.

In its prospectus on the event, the IPA’s outline of the agenda for the program includes these sessions:

  • Textbook Policies: Reaching the Goal of a Textbook for Every Child in Africa, with Brian Wafawarowa, chair of the IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy committee and former president of South Africa’s publishers association, as well as Julius Jwan who directs the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development
  • Copyright Protection and the Threat of Piracy
  • Developing Africa’s Next Generation of Publishers, Writers, and Artists, featuring Kenyan poet Peter Kimani and the Nigrerian twin brothers Chidi and Chika Nwaogu, who founded the digital publishing platform Publiseer
  • Digital Transformation and Disruption in African Publishing
  • The Growing Threat of Self-Censorship
  • Creating the Readers of the Future
  • Lost Tongues: The Struggle to Preserve Indigenous African Languages, with Zimbabwe’s Petina Gappah and South Africa’s Elinor Sisulu
  • Data Innovation: Developing Data and Statistical Capabilities to Support the Publishing and Creative Industries


More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here and on African publishing markets and issues is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.