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Bold new Pan African collaboration gets underway at the 2020 virtual South African Book Fair

September 1, 2020

The initiative aims to create a collaborative and co-ordinated approach towards increasing the promotion of local, African-owned and -controlled book production industries.

A bold and exciting Pan African collaboration gets underway at the upcoming South African Book Fair which takes place as a virtual event from September 11th to 13th.

The initiative aims to create a collaborative and co-ordinated approach towards increasing the promotion of local, African-owned and -controlled book production industries as well as the exchange of writers, illustrators and storytellers on the continent’s national book fair platforms.

“Africa’s stories are the new gold and are potentially a significant wealth generator for the continent,” says Elitha van der Sandt, CEO South African Book Development Council (SABDC).

“When the COVID-19 pandemic struck and we had to quickly reimagine how to present our national book fair in the virtual space, we began thinking about how we could use this moment to materialise a continental strategy for Africa’s book industries. Working together with other national fairs in developing, promoting and improving the reading culture among Africans – and to share #OURSTORIES – is a core aim of The South African Book Fair and this year presents a unique moment to further that goal.”

Arising out of van der Sandt’s request for collaboration, the African Publishers Network (APNET) hosted a meeting on 22nd July 2020 with the chairpersons, Book Fair Directors and other executives of some National Book Fairs in Africa. The aim of the meeting was to activate the Pan African Collaboration among African book fairs and industries.

The first tangible results of this is the participation in each other’s virtual national book fairs by Nigeria (September 1st to 7th), South Africa (September 11th to 13th) and Kenya (September 24th to 27th). Among other collaborative efforts, the South African Book Fair will be an exhibitor at the Nigerian International Book Fair and vice versa.

The virtual South African Book Fair programme will feature an important discussion on Book Development in Africa between SABDC’s Elitha van der Sandt and Ernesticia Lartey Asuinura, Executive Director of Ghana Book Development Council. The session is moderated by APNET chairperson Samuel Kolawole.

A key panel in furthering the literary aspect of the Pan African Collaboration takes place on September 12th at 14h30. Titled Giving Books A Place Of Pride In Africa: The Role Of Literary Journals On The Continent, this South African Book Fair session features Rémy Ngamije, editor of Namibia’s first literary magazine, Doek!, Jennifer Malec of The Johannesburg Review Of Books, Troy Onyango, editor of Kenyan literary magazine Lolwe and Dr Ainehi Edoro-Glines, founder and editor of African literary blog, Brittle Paper. In a discussion to be moderated by Kenya-based James Murua of James Marua’s African Literature Blog, the panel will discuss the gaps that necessitated the creation of their diverse literary journals, as well as the challenges and opportunities available in the literary space.

There are also a number of African authors taking part in the South African Book Fair’s 2020 programme. Among these is award-winning Nigerian writer, Chiké Frankie Edozien (Lives Of Great Men) who will join South Africans Mark Gevisser (The Pink Line) and Jamil F. Khan, (Khamr: The Makings Of A Waterslams) to discuss their queer journeys, and past, present and future LGBTQ+ frontiers on September 13th at 12h00.

It is expected that lessons learned and best practices from the upcoming Nigerian, South African and Kenyan national book fairs will help other African book fairs to follow suit and be successful in future when the need arises.

“A little drop of water can build a mighty ocean,” says Ernesticia Lartey Asuinura of the Ghana Book Development Council.

Concludes van der Sandt: “Collaboration is vital. There is consensus around the continent that we must have measures in place to create sustainable industries, both local and continent-wide. We are thrilled to be taking concrete steps in that direction this year.”

The Pan African Collaboration seeks to achieve objectives which include but not limited to the following:

• To create a collaborative and co-ordinated approach towards increasing the promotion of local, African-owned and -controlled book production industries.

• To create a collaborative and coordinated exchange of writers, illustrators and storytellers on the national book fair platforms.

• To create opportunities for national African book fairs to come together to collectively consider the way in which our book fairs will engage and interact.

• To assist in stimulating knowledge production in Africa.

• To create unity of purpose in the promotion of our national book fairs to grow African literature.

• To create a calendar of national book fairs on the continent.

• To lobby our governments to invest in the national book fairs as export platforms.

• To lobby our governments and the African Union to prioritise the book industries in the African Continental Free Trade Area.

• To identify critical success indicators of our collaboration.

• To collaborate as a collective at other international book fairs and support the development of the continent as a whole.

• To build capacity and share experiences with each other for the collective advancement of our book fairs on the international stage.

• To create stronger awareness of Pan African literature in our respective countries.

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