New Initiative Brings African Literature Into the IPA-UN SDG Book Club

In News by Porter Anderson

The new African chapter of the SDG Book Club will curate books in Kiswahili, Arabic, French, and English.

On back streets in the Medina at Marrakech. Image – iStockphoto: Glen Pearson

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

Nominations for African Books Are Open Now
Begun in September 2018, the SDG Book Club is a collaboration of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals program (SDG), a project created “to encourage children ages 6 to 12 to interact with the principles of the UN’s ambitious 17-goal project.

Today (January 25), the IPA has announced a new multilingual initiative that will bring together book-related organizations from many parts of Africa in a commitment to bolstering the representation of African literature in SDG Book Club with a collection of titles for children in Kiswahili, Arabic, French, and English.

There are precedents for this in the infusion, announced in September, of content in Portuguese for Portugal and Brazil, along with similar initiatives in linguistic club additions in Norway and Indonesia. The healthy trend developing shows a widening interest in bringing new languages into the program to broaden its reach.

As Publishing Perspectives readers will remember, the program provides a curated monthly selection of books for kids is offered by the program in the six UN languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. Each month’s curation focuses on one of the goals that anchor the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in the General Assembly in September 2015.

The African complement to the program is planned to open on April 23, which is celebrated in most markets as World Book Day. (The United Kingdom calls March 4 World Book Day because April 23 can clash with Easter and St. George’s Day.)

The founding partners of this new wing of African literature for the SDG Book Club are:

‘The Global Diversity of Children’s Books’

And the actionable part of today’s announcement involves the opening of a nomination tool for books to be included in the new African curation. That nomination form is here.

Samuel Kolawole

In a prepared comment, Samuel Kolawole, chair of the African Publishers Network, is quoted, saying, “There’s no doubt that good quality books at all levels can contribute immensely to the attainment of the SDGs all over the world by providing knowledge on the goals and what steps can be taken to attain them.

“For Africa, the availability and access to such books—which are indigenous to Africa and to which Africans can relate—will go a long way to ensure that the continent of Africa makes good progress toward achieving the SDGs.

Olatoun Gabi-Williams

“That’s why the efforts by all book stakeholders across the continent to organize an SDG Book Club for Africa in partnership with the UN deserves commendation and should be supported by all.”

Borders Literature for All Nations founder Olatoun Gabi-Williams says, “It’s wonderful to know that children’s books published in Africa, with their strong SDG messages, will become a visible and colorful part of the global diversity of children’s books through this portal, the UN SDG Book Club African Chapter.”

Lily Nyariki

Lily Nyariki of the Association for Development of Education in Africa, is quoted, saying, “This is a worthwhile initiative that will see Africa contributing to the world’s knowledge through children’s books while showcasing African publishers and authors internationally.

“The Association for Development of Education in Africa congratulates all participating authors and publishers.

Mandla Ntombela, president of the African Library and Information Associations and Institutions, says his organization “wholly supports the African Chapter of the SDG Book Club.

Mandla Ntombela

“There’s no comparison,” he says, “to the value of information, whether through storybooks or textbooks, for the provision of insights that can catalyze minds to become powerful and resourceful in solving societal problems.

“Strengthening the pathways and possibilities of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals through reading is a most welcome idea to African libraries.”

Wale Okediran, the secretary general of the Pan African Writers’ Association, is quoted, as well.

Wale Okediran

Okediran says that the association he leads “is happy to be part of this wonderful project.”

The SDG Book Club, he says, is a program “through which African children can relate to Sustainable Development Goal messages in the context of their immediate environments through books written and published by Africans.”

Anthea Basson, national information officer with the United Nations Information Centre, Windhoek, says, “The SDG Book Club African Chapter unlocks the ambitions of the Sustainable Developments Goals through relatable stories which young children can be inspired by.

Anthea Basson

“The narrative in a children’s book provides the perfect platform to create teachable moments and examples around the SDGs and the importance of taking action.

“Reading is a fundamental skill on which the acquisition of many other skills is based.

“What better way to explore the SDGs than through a book?”

And Dare Oluwatuyi, president of the Booksellers Association of Nigeria, says that he and his associates believe that the African SDG Book Club project can at least two wins.

Dare Oluwatuyi

“The first,” he says, “is a greater emphasis on the culture of reading and writing in Africa and the second, a more impactful grassroots communication of the laudable goals of the UN’s SDGs.

“We similarly encourage others to support it.”

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals embrace issues of health, gender equality, and education, and are meant to mobilize international efforts to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities, and tackle climate change.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the SDG Book Club is here, more from us on the International Publishers Association is here, and more on publishing and its issues in Africa is here. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he 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 as an arts critic (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.