IPA’s Hugo Setzer to Africa’s Publishers at Nairobi: ‘We Need You’

In News by Porter Anderson

In opening the second International Publishers Association Africa Seminar event in Kenya, IPA president Hugo Setzer quotes Desmond Tutu on ubuntu: ‘You can’t exist as a human being in isolation.’

International Publishers Association president Hugo Setzer gives his opening address to the IPA Africa Seminar 2019 at Nairobi. Image: Porter Anderson

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

‘Building Bridges Among Publishers’
Here in Kenya, the International Publishers Association‘s (IPA)’s “Africa Rising” seminar has opened today (June 14) in Nairobi, hosted by the Kenya Publishers Association.

Click here to download a free copy of our special “Africa Rising” edition for delegates to the Nairobi seminar.

As Publishing Perspectives readers know, we have many insights and observations from various speakers and stakeholders in this, the second annual iteration of the IPA’s Africa Seminar. The first was held last year in May at Lagos, with the cooperation of the Nigerian Publishers Association.

Following the welcoming comments of Kenya Publishers Association Lawrence Njagi, we’ve heard an event-leading address from Hugo Setzer, president of the International Publishers Association.

A gracious and thoughtful man, Setzer—CEO of Mexico’s educational publishing house Manual Moderno—has set a torrid pace of travel since beginning his two-year term as president in January within less than a week of the Nairobi seminar, he will have appeared at publishing events in Berlin and Seoul, as well.

Here, we provide you with the text of Setzer’s comments, which are titled “Africa Rising: Realizing Africa’s Potential as a Global Publishing Leader in the 21st Century.”

Hugo Setzer: ‘Enrich the World With Books We Publish’

Asubuhi njema kila mtu. [Swahili: Good morning, everyone.]

Thank you all for joining us here in this wonderful city of Nairobi. Yet again I find myself in a new country, surrounded by people who love books. Not only do we love books. We also recognise their importance to some of the most fundamental parts of our societies and our democracies.

And this is something we as publishers have in common all around the world. Since I started my assignment, first as Vice-President of the International Publishers Association, I have been talking about the importance of building bridges among publishers around the world.

And this always reminds me of the beautiful ubuntu philosophy: “I am what I am because of who we all are.”

The South African Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu says about ubuntu, ‘You can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world.

“When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.”

Publishers and publishing industries around the world need each other. We need you.

I am very glad that we have two outstanding African publishers on IPA’s executive committee, Brian Wafawarowa from South Africa, and Gbadega Adedapo from Nigeria. But we could have more African members in IPA.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be with you all today. I was unable to attend last year’s seminar in Lagos as I was before the Canadian Parliamentary [Industry] Committee reviewing the copyright law that has decimated their local educational publishing industry. [Our coverage of this event, in which Setzer spoke to the parliamentary committee in Toronto. And our full coverage of the copyright crisis in Canada is here.]

That day represented the truly international scope of the IPA’s work. The president [then Michiel Kolman of Amsterdam] in Lagos, Nigeria. The vice-president in Toronto, Canada.

There was also a beautiful contrast to those two occasions. One where IPA goes and defends publishers and the copyright laws that their businesses are built on. The other where we were able to promote the value of publishing and the opportunity that the right public policies could create for Africa, in all it’s beautiful diversity, to be a global publishing leader in the 21st century.

‘Publishing Ecosystems Need Balance’

This week is similar in its contrast. Many of you will know that the World Intellectual Property Organisation [WIPO] has organized two meetings here in Nairobi this week. Some of those attendees have joined us here, too. Welcome.

“Weakening copyright through exceptions and limitations to improve access is a short-term solution like destroying the dam to release the water in the reservoir.”Hugo Setzer, International Publishers Association

WIPO is where the world’s copyright treaties are conceived, negotiated, and born. International policy negotiation is slow, but the work of WIPO’s committees can have a profound impact on the daily lives of publishers. This week’s discussions focused on exceptions and limitations to copyright and whether an international treaty is necessary.

These discussions are sometimes presented as a battle between the haves and have-nots. This is not the case.

Publishing ecosystems need balance. Balance between access, negotiating balance between the different people in the value chain. Weakening copyright through exceptions and limitations to improve access is a short-term solution like destroying the dam to release the water in the reservoir. A flood of access followed by drought as no new books can be written and published.

The IPA strongly believes that the international copyright framework is sufficiently flexible and robust to enable member states the freedom to adapt their copyright laws to their local conditions.

We also encourage governments to support the growth of local publishing industries that can give a voice to their culture, and in this United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages, the written and spoken expression of that culture, which can travel around the world.

We are here to talk about the positive future of publishing in Africa, the positive future of African publishers and the role they can play in driving quality education across the continent. I can’t wait to hear what Peter Tabichi [Varkey Foundation ‘Education Cannot Wait’ winner: ‘Champion for Children in Conflict and Crisis’] has to say on this subject.

‘Bravely Publishing Works in Challenging Circumstances’

We are also here to talk about the freedom to publish, the other pillar of IPA’s work alongside copyright.

“Each year the IPA awards the Prix Voltaire to a publisher because we think it’s absolutely essential that we support fellow publishers against censorship, anywhere in the world.”Hugo Setzer, International Publishers Association

Each year the IPA awards the Prix Voltaire to a publisher who has risked their own safety for the freedom to publish the works of others. We do this because we think it’s absolutely essential that we support fellow publishers against censorship, anywhere in the world.

Mr. Tutu says in this regard, “A person with ubuntu is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”

This year’s laureate is Egyptian publisher Khaled Lofty, currently sentenced to 5 years in prison for publishing a book.

Voltaire said: “Think for yourself and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”.

I would like us all to take a minute to think about our fellow publisher Khaled and other publishers around the world. Could I ask you to join me in a round of applause for Khaled Lofty to demonstrate our support for him and for all those publishers bravely publishing works in challenging circumstances?


We are honored to be joined by Prix Voltaire Laureate Sihem Bensedrine from Tunisia who is now leading their post-revolutionary truth and dignity commission.

Mrs. Bensedrine will be speaking in our panel on self-censorship, the most insidious form of censorship that is growing everywhere against a backdrop of government pressure, social media abuse, and political and religious extremism.

‘The Stories of Individual Publishers’

I, like many of you, am impatient to hear what our esteemed guest Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o has to say. I will not keep you much longer.

“Your stories feed our work and help us engage at an international level to promote the value of publishers.”Hugo Setzer, International Publishers Association

Thank you Lawrence [Njagi] and the Kenya Publishers Association for hosting this event at such a vital time for international copyright discussions.

Let me also second Lawrence in thanking IPA’s vice-president, Bodour Al Qasimi, for her incredible commitment to these regional seminars and for bringing together this stunning program.

Finally, let me thank our generous sponsors without whom this wonderful occasion would not be a reality.

For the next two days, we will be hearing interesting insights from industry experts. We will be hearing about your stories. For the IPA, it is your stories, the stories of individual publishers, that feed our work and help us engage at an international level to promote the value of publishers.

  • The publishers that entertain us.
  • The publishers that educate our children.
  • The publishers that give access to high quality, reliable research.
  • The publishers who help make a better world by supplying entertaining stories and validated information to everyone.

Let us continue to enrich the world with the books we publish.

Asante . [Swahili: Thank you.]

More from Publishing Perspectives on the International Publishers Association is here, more from us on its ‘Africa Rising’ Nairobi seminar is here, and more on African publishing markets and issues is here. More from us on copyright issues is here. And more on the freedom to publish is here.

Our special magazine for the International Publishers Association’s (IPA) “Rising Africa” 2019 seminar has been printed by Modern Lithographic Kenya and is being provided in print to delegates as the conference convenes on June 14 and 15 in Nairobi.

We hope you’ll download a free copy here in PDF and join us in welcoming the second annual IPA Africa Seminars event, an important new series in world publishing.

In this new magazine, you’ll find commentary from the IPA leadership, from key stakeholders in the 2018 seminar at Lagos produced with the Nigerian Publishers Association, and from our hosts at this year’s event produced in cooperation with the Kenya Publishers Association. There also are insights from speakers in this week’s program and background coverage on publishing in Africa from Publishing Perspectives.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

Facebook Twitter

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