The Nigerian publishing industry recently attracted its counterparts from across the world to a seminal discussion on “Publishing for Sustainable Development: The Role of Publishers in Africa.”
The one-day event, which held at Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos, witnessed the best and the brightest in the industry globally to point the way forward in the publishing industry.
Welcoming Nigerian audience at the event was Mr Gbadega Adedapo, president of Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA); while his international counterpart and President, International Publishers Association (IPA), Dr. Michael Kolman, welcomed the international delegates. There were six panel discussions, six topics and 25 discussants at the event.
Mr Samuel Kolawole, Chair, African Publishers Network, whose team of discussants comprised Messrs Mohammed Radi, Sella Ahmed El Mbeki, Asare Yamoah and Elliot Agyare, took on the first panel of discussion.
They espoused that the publishing industry had made contributions to the national economy’s gross domestic production and employment, adding that it had less tangible contributions to socio-cultural development in the form of promoting industrial invention, innovation and differentiation, as well as economic competitiveness.
The session explored the socio-economic impact generated by the publishing and creative industries and how the industry could evolve to better contribute to sustainable development, to the future of Africa, particularly the education industry.
The sub theme of the conversation –publishing – typically made up of a significant portion of industry sales in developing publishing market.
Moderated by Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi, it identified key challenges, saying that market for books in African countries were few with some exceptions and that gender constraints derived from the fact that students enrolments in schools were skewed in favour of men and publishers in Africa dominated by foreign companies.
It canvased a book policy of 5 for one pupil, adding, “We need a government support to run Nigeria’s publishing industry and parents must participate to aid the growth of the industry,” a Nigerian panelist echoed.
The Book Manager, Moi University, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Lily Nyariki, frowned at 15 children sharing a book, pointing out that countries in Africa did not have national book policy.
Gbenro Adegbola, Chief Executive Officer, Verita, said that the Book and Reading Development Project by World Bank, which aimed at improving the quality of basic education by addressing critical factors affecting both the supply of, and demand of, textbooks, was a major disservice to Nigerian publishers; while Otunba Olayinka Lawal-Solarin of Literamed Publication view the problem of publishing as same across Africa.
He said that what was needed for sustainable development of the industry was for government to create an enabling environment adding that government reliance on donor funding was not healthy.
The Kenyan, Nyariki, regretted that we “tend to talk to ourselves without key policy makers in attendance to see the need for improvement in the industry and take the solutions away.”
She tasked industry practitioners to hold government accountable, adding that government must step in to salvage the industry.
The panel was also made up of Adele Nibona, who brought UNESCO perspectives to the topic. The theme of the third panel discussion was, “Bringing the Voice of African Writers, Publishers, and Content Creators to the World”.
Anchored by Bibi Bakare Yusuf, Co-founder and publishing director, Cassava Republic Press, its synopsis was contingent on a growing trend, in which global readers were seeking out original, distinctive writing and more diverse narratives.
It noted that evolution in readers’ consumption trends presented a significant opportunity for publishers in the emergent markets and explored how government and the publishing industry can collaborate to help African authors and publishers reach global audiences.
The panelists, made up of Walter Bgoya, Mkukina Nyofa, Akoss Ofori-Mensah, Lola Shoneyin, Dr. Wale Okediran, and Ayobami Adebayo, canvassed for children books and in local languages.
It regretted the decline of literary activities from 97 to 67 percent globally, submitting that there was need to educate “our people and get everybody reading again.”