IPA’s Africa Publishing Innovation Committee: Scaling Up Funded Projects

In News by Porter Anderson

In an effort to ‘enlarge the footprint’ for its US$800,000 seed capital, the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund turns to trends in local publishing, book access, and library services.

The International Publishers Association’s committee on the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund meets at Sharjah on goals of enhanced impact and reach for the projects that benefit from its support. Image: IPA, Nabs Ahmedi

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

Al Gurg: ‘We’ve Witnessed Remarkable Outcomes’
Taking advantage of the large contingent of  International Publishers Association (IPA) leadership figures who are here in the United Arab Emirates this week for the   and specifically for its Sharjah Publishers’ Conference, the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF) committee has held a meeting at the House of Widsom to explore “ways to scale up and enhance these projects” funded by the program.

As Publishing Perspectives noted in June, for example, one of the most interesting aspects of the work of this fund—jointly created with Dubai Cares—has been how it has questioned the traditional emphasis in many African markets on government-funded textbook production.

As Samuel Kolawole of University Press in Nigeria pointed out in his appearance on a panel moderated by Publishing Perspectives, a heavy focus on textbooks and other educational materials has tended to make the challenges of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic severely intense for many of Africa’s publishers.

The fund is designed to support literacy, book access, indigenous publishing, and library services across Africa.

Al Qasimi: ‘Sectors Vital for Sustainable Development’

At the committee meeting in Sharjah on the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund. Dubai Cares’ Tarik Al Gurg and the International Publishers Association’s Bodour Al Qasimi are at the center. Image: IPA, Nabs Ahmedi

Meeting with publishing players from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia, and South Africa, and led by IPA’s president Bodour Al Qasimi and Tariq Al Gurg, vice-president and CEO of Dubai Cares, the committee has re-examined how the fund’s objectives are laid out annually, with an eye to addressing some of the most pressing challenges facing African publishing.

Describing the partnership with IPA as a natural extension of Dubai Cares’ commitment to ensuring that children internationally can have the benefits of reading throughout their lives, Al Gurg, is quoted in today’s media messaging (November 3), saying, “Since the establishment of the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund, we’ve witnessed remarkable outcomes that are expanding IPA’s contributions towards promoting literacy.

“We thank IPA for their sustained efforts in improving literacy, book access, indigenous publishing, and library restoration in Africa, and we look forward to continuing our work together and positively impacting the lives of people across Africa.”

Halfway through its four-year mandate, the US$800,000 grant funded by Dubai Cares and administered by the IPA, has received myriad inspiring ideas for directions of potential funding support.

At this point, the fund has disbursed US$400,000 to 12 initiatives, including eight publishing innovations and four library projects in over at least countries across the African continent.

A point that Al Gurg has made in the past is that Africa’s overall population is almost 60-percent under the age of 25.

Outlining the success that she and Al Gurg agree the fund is having, Al Qasimi described “the impact this fund has had over the past two years in championing homegrown projects across Africa.

“These projects effectively address challenges and respond to the needs of the indigenous publishing, education, and library sectors.

“The Africa Publishing Innovation Fund is the IPA’s first foray into the grant-giving domain in our 125-year history, and its fantastic results demonstrate that it’s never too late to get behind a cause and lead lasting change.

“Along with our partner Dubai Cares, we’ve mobilized this fund strategically to advance key sectors vital for sustainable development.”

A Workshop for Funded Organizations’ Leaders

At the committee meeting in Sharjah on the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund. Image: IPA, Nabs Ahmedi

On the sidelines of the fund committee meeting, a workshop featured the five winners of the 2021 edition of the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund. Participants included:

  • Catherine Uwimana from Save the Children International, Rwanda
  • Will Clurman, eKitabu, Kenya
  • Chirikure Chirikure, Zimbabwe
  • Alison Tweed, CEO, Book Aid International, UK
  • Kumuriwor Alira Bushiratu, Learners Girls Foundation, Ghana

Each of the funded organizations’ leads made presentations focused on ground-level challenges they faced and lessons they learned in setting up and executing their projects backed by the Innovation Fund.

Working together on guidance and recommendations to gain ongoing results from the boost of the funding, they also spoke of the quality and outreach of their respective projects, agreeing on the pivotal importance of the support received from the grants they won.


More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing in Africa is here, more on the International Publishers Association is here, and more on the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world 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 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.