On the 9th of May, 2018, we were glad to have been part of The inaugural International Publishers Association (IPA) Africa Seminar. It was held in an Oscar-like decorated conference hall at Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos. Titled: ‘Publishing for Sustainable Development – The Role of Publishers in Africa,’ and jointly organized by the IPA and the Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA).
The seminar focused on a lot of key factors affecting publishing and book distribution in Nigeria and African at large.
The seminar started with a welcome speech from The President of the Nigerian Publishers Association, Gbadega Adedapo. His opening speech touched on the fact that the African Publishing Industry has a good story to tell but was not yet drumming it loudly. He attributed it partly to the fact that the African Publishing industry presently faces a very high level of piracy.
Second in line for a welcome speech was Dr. Michiel Kolman, President of the IPA, who talked about “big tech,” and how it affects our efforts in building a market for African authors and publishers.
Other key points were, lack of solid copyright protection, the fight against illiteracy, so as to get more Africans to read, the advancement of IT-based literacy programs and digital start-ups as regards to publishing and selling,
The first Panel discussion was – Publishing in the 21st Century, the Socio-economic Contribution of the Publishing Industry in Africa.
First panelists include Samuel Kolawole – Chair, African Publishers Network Asare Yamoah – Former President, Ghana Book Publishers Association Mohammad Radi – Vice Chair, African Publishers Network Sellami Ahmed El Meki – President, Mauritanian Publishers Association Elliot Agyare – President of the Ghana publishers Associaton, President of the Commonwealth Book Publishers Association, Chief Executive Officer – Smartline Publishers Ltd.
Asare Yamoah, who happens to be the former President, Ghana Book Publishers Association, hammered on four key areas publishers need to focus on. They include – literacy, a reading culture, author development, government policies, and interventions.
The second Panel Discussion was centered on ‘Strengthening Educational Publishing in Africa.’ The panelists were, Moderator: Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi – Publisher, Tanus Books Limited Adele Nibona – Culture Programme Specialist, UNESCO Lily Nyariki – Bookshop Manager – Moi University, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Gbenro Adegbola – Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, First Veritas Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin – Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Literamed Publications.
The third Panel Discussion was on bringing the Voice of African Writers, Publishers and Content Creators to the World.
The panelists were Moderator: Bibi Bakare-Yusuf – Co-founder and Publishing Director, Cassava Republic Press Walter Bgoya – Managing Director, Mkuki Na Nyota Publishing and Chairman of the International African Books Collective Akoss Ofori-Mensah – Founder, Sub-Saharan Publishers Lola Shoneyin – Founder, Ouida Books Dr. Wale Okediran – Former President, The Nigerian Authors Association
There was also the discussion of book accessibility in the region by Lola Shoneyin, founder of Nigeria’s Ouida Books.
The fourth Panel Discussion focused on ‘The Role of Technology in Overcoming Illiteracy and Promoting a Reading Culture.’ This panel featured one of the Seminar’s most popular speakers, our own Okechukwu Ofili, founder of Nigeria’s online platform Okada Books. He wasted no time in telling the panel – and the audience – that they were too old. “The people in this room are not our audience,” he said. “And we need younger people on this stage. I’m 37 and I feel too old.”
The panelists for the fourth discussion were Moderator: Masennya Dikotla – Chief Executive, Molteno Institute for Language and Literacy, Harry Hare – Chairman, CIO East Africa Godwin Fiagbor – Africa Director of Educational Technology Solutions, Edify Okechukwu Ofili – Founder, Okada Books, Ama Dadson – Founder & CEO, AkooBooks Audio
Okechukwu Ofili pointed out that the industry is struggling with distribution problem. He said, “It is easier to buy Things Fall Apart in Germany than it is in Nigeria,… People say that Nigerians don’t read, Africans don’t read, yet when we launched in 2013 our platform quickly had 100,000 active monthly users. How do we get to people across Africa? It’s digital. The cost of building libraries is too much.”
Okechukwu also pointed out that the industry needed to stop looking up to government for help – “The government is too busy with NEPA (the Nigerian Electronic Power Authority), and the roads. They don’t have time to worry about reading.”
Okechukwu said, there is a local audience for the Nigerian writer. He explained we need to write more for our local audience instead of for the west. “… Adichie’s feminism needs to be read more here than in America”. He also mentioned, the best way to tackle piracy is to “provide as many legal routes as you can – this is how they tackled it in the music industry”.
The 5th Panel Discussion addressed Freedom to Publish Challenges in Africa. And this discussion was held by Dr. Festus Adedayo, member of the Editorial Board of South Africa’s Sunday Tribune.
Panelists for the sixth discussion were, Moderator: Folu Agoi – President, PEN Nigeria Dr. Festus Adedayo – Member of Editorial Board, Sunday Tribune Kristenn Einarsson – Managing Director, Norwegian Publishers Association and Chair of IPA Freedom to Publish Committee Trevor Ncube – Chairman, Alpha Media Holdings ( Private) Limited, Recipient of the IPA Prix Voltaire.
The 6th and final Panel Discussion focused on Enhancing Enforcement of Copyright and Intellectual Property (IP) Laws. “It is true that book pirates need to be called out for what they are; thieves.” That was the opening statement from Moderator Lawrence Njagi.
Closing Remarks were given by Bodour Al Qasimi, Founder, and President of the Emirates Publishers Association, Member of the IPA Executive Committee. And it was followed by a Gala Dinner, which saw African singing, drumming, and dancing, done by the Nigerian vocal and dance troupe, Adunni & Nefertiti, who describe themselves as folksong ambassadors.
At the end of the event, Okechukwu Ofili – Founder Okada Books, has this say, “It was truly a moving event that opened my eyes to different ideas and strategies to help my company OkadaBooks.com grow. Worth the 10 hours spent!”