IPA regional seminar tackles the challenges of African publishing


200 participants gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, to attend the first IPA Regional Seminar on Publishing in Africa. The seminar brought together notable publishers and others from across Africa and beyond and included 2007 Prix Voltaire recipient Trevor Ncube from Zimbabwe.

Opening the seminar Gbadega Adedapo, President of the Nigerian Publishers Association and member of the IPA’s Executive Committee, encouraged the industry to shout louder about its value, estimating its annual turnover at around one billion US dollars.

Warning about the scourge of piracy, Adedapo paraphrased Chinua Achebe in describing what will happen if piracy is not tackled: “Things fall apart.” He called on participants to use the seminar to come up with a Lagos Action Plan 2018 to help carry the African publishing industry forward.

IPA President, Dr Michiel Kolman, used his opening remarks to underline the connected nature of the publishing industry in a globalised world, telling the audience, “Almost none of our challenges exist in isolation. We can all learn from each other. The challenges faced in Nigeria today may be those faced somewhere else tomorrow. And the solutions of one government may inspire another.” He also warned against African governments being used as proxies in big tech companies’ efforts to undermine copyright.

The seminar’s 6 panels covered a range of issues including the socio-economic contribution of African publishing – IPA Secretary General, José Borghino calling on “African governments to take publishing seriously by starting to collect data on the industry.” Other panel sessions focused on educational publishing, the originality of African literary voices, the role of technology, and the importance of copyright. A panel on freedom to publish featured 2007 Prix Voltaire recipient, Trevor Ncube. The Zimbabwean publisher said the award had protected him and raised his profile, giving him a platform to voice his views in a way that governments took notice.

President of the Emirates Publishers Association and member of the IPA’s Executive Committee, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, drew proceedings to a close by underlining the importance of strong local publishing industries both culturally and economically. She also announced that the Kenyan Publishers Association had offered to host the next IPA seminar for sustainable development of Africa next year in Nairobi..

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