By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Applications Open June 1In an unusually fast display of philanthropic determination, the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the agile educational funding program Dubai Cares committed just under a year ago on May 20 to a major four-year allocation of some 2.9 million dirhams (US$789,523) in support of literacy, book access, indigenous publishing, and library restoration work.
By late October at the Sharjah International Book Fair Publishers Conference, the African Publishing Innovation Fund announced US$170,000 in allocations—$20,000 to each of six African projects and $50,000 to the Nairobi-based Book Bunk library program for the McMillan Library work.
Today (April 30), the IPA’s offices in Geneva have issued an announcement, giving potential applicants time to prepare, for a new tranche of grants intended to help “African publishing entrepreneurs overcome the staggering impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in 2020 and beyond.”
These 2020 grants are to be directed toward locally-owned, digital learning innovations which help African students continue their education.
And all of this is couched in the IPA’s still-young aggressive outreach program of support for the African continent’s publishing markets. Begun in 2018 with its first regional African strategy-building conference in Lagos, and continued in June 2019 in a second such conference in Nairobi. A similar program is in development for publishing in the Middle East, and that one was kicked off in September in a landmark event at Amman.
In its media messaging today, the IPA is reiterating its concern for “the overnight predominance of homeschooling,” which prompted the IPA to become a charter partner in UNESCO’s new #LearningNeverStops initiative along with private-sector support from Microsoft, GSMA, Weidong, Google, Facebook, Zoom, KPMG, and Coursera. And one of the philanthropic organizations signing onto that program is Dubai Cares (along with Sesame Street, Profuturo, and the Khan Academy).
As we mentioned in our Wednesday report, UNESCO sees more than 1.5 “learners”—referring to students of all kinds and ages—moved out of their classrooms by the contagion, some 90 percent of the world’s student population.
“The COVID-19 pandemic,” says IPA vice-president Bodour Al Qasimi in today’s announcement, “has sent young learners and parents scrambling to find workable remote learning solutions with little guidance or support.
“It’s critical that students don’t get left behind, especially in African countries in which infrastructure and technological challenges are greatest.
“With the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund, the IPA has an opportunity to help improve this picture by enabling local innovators to provide learning solutions that African schoolchildren and university students need.’
Bodour will chair the panel designated to make the selections of this year’s grants. Joining her on that panel will be senior publishing leaders including:
- Akoss Ofori-Mensah (Ghana), managing director, Sub-Saharan Publishers and a management council member with the African Books Collective, Oxford, UK
- Brian Wafawarowa (South Africa), the chief content and product officer at Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd, and chair of the IPA’s Inclusive Publishing and Literacy committee
- Gbadega Adedapo (Nigeria), president, Nigerian Publishers Association and chair of the Nigeria Book Fair Trust as well as CEO of Rasmed Publications Limited
- Lawrence Njagi (Kenya), chair of the Kenya Publishers Association, founding managing director of Mountain Top Publishers, and the treasurer of the African Publishers Network (APNET).
- Mohamed Salah Maalej (Tunisia), the general coordinator of Tunisia’s International Book Fair, CEO of Kounouz Publishing, and president of the Arab and International Exhibitions committee in the Arab Publishers Association
‘Ensuring Equitable Access to Distance Learning’
Tariq Al Gurg, Dubai Cares’ CEO, is quoted in today’s announcement, saying, “‘The publishing industry plays a pivotal role in education throughout the world, and in such challenging times when COVID-19 has heavily affected education, this role will be eroded if we don’t put forward innovative solutions that provide easy access to learning resources.
“As an organization that focuses on providing access to quality education, we believe we have a critical role to play in ensuring equitable access to distance learning and the necessary resources for all children and youth in the world, especially during emergencies and crises.
“Through our support to IPA’s Africa Publishing Innovation Fund, we seek to encourage entrepreneurs to develop innovative techniques to help students and teachers connect to information reliably and equitably, so learning and teaching practices are transformed because of COVID-19 academic institutions closures.”
When the application season opens in June, the panel will vet submissions with in-person interviews, presentations, and “multiple feedback sessions,” and at this point, the exact number of allocations to be made is not set and remains at the panel members’ discretion.
As you may know, Dubai Cares has taken specific responsibility in the fourth of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals, and the IPA is partnering with the UN on its SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) Book Club for young readers.
The IPA, as we’ve reported, also is working in the educational space during the pandemic with its #ReadTheWorld initiative in cooperation with UNICEF and WHO.
More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing in Africa is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, and more from us on the coronavirus pandemic is here.