Frankfurt: In her opening remarks at the ‘Spotlight on Africa’ seminar at Frankfurter Buchmesse 2022, International Publishers Association (IPA) President Bodour Al Qasimi hailed the success of the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF), a joint initiative by IPA and Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation, which has seen an $800,000 investment in the project to date.
The seminar, which included sessions with panellists from around the globe, including the African continent itself, was organised by the IPA - which manages the APIF - with the support of Dubai Cares, and hosted by Frankfurt Book Fair.
The event brought together a group of African publishers to showcase their work and the projects completed with the support of APIF. The seminar also heard from Juergen Boos, President and CEO of Frankfurt International Book Fair, and hosted several panel discussions centred on key challenges faced by the African education system as it makes the shift to online learning in the wake of COVID-19. Also in the spotlight were recent work that is being done to transform African libraries to align with their changing role in communities; and the importance of accessible publishing for Africa.
“When I first saw the theme of this year’s book fair – translate, transfer, transform – words connect worlds – it immediately made me think of Africa and the work the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund has done to help African publishers create, translate, and transfer their culture to the younger generation to transform their future and the future of their continent,” Al Qasimi said.
The APIF mandate was the first time the IPA had awarded grants in its 126-year history but with the success of the programme so far it has proved to be a worthy investment. But, as Al Qasimi explained, the AIPF was about much more than simply providing financial assistance and enabling projects. “It was about the energy it generated, the hope it inspired, and the enthusiasm of the hundreds of applicants from so many African countries.”
Also part of the ‘Spotlight on Africa’ programme in Frankfurt was the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund Collective Stand, which showcased the winners of APIF to Frankfurt Book Fair’s global audience - some of the most impactful African publishing innovators who share a focus on cultivating new readers through indigenous, localised narratives, modernising libraries and leveraging technology to reach young, digitally connected readers.
In her speech, Al Qasimi highlighted the importance of cross-continent and cross-market collaboration, stressing that working together is the only way forward, especially following the pandemic and the ramifications it has had on the entire sector.
She congratulated the winners of the APIF grants in the audience, noting that their projects are making a tangible positive impact for young African readers while also making publishing and reading a real driver for social and economic growth in the region.
Since 2019, the fund’s annual grant cycles have awarded grants for 12 projects in 13 African countries, funded two Pan-African initiatives, and the creation and refurbishment of libraries in Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This year, APIF funded projects focusing on book accessibility to increase the availability and profile of works for the visually impaired and print-disabled readers in Africa.
APIF’s disbursements have helped 400 at-risk girls access educational resources, made digital content accessible for children, supported literacy and reading outside the classroom, and promoted translations of books into indigenous African languages.