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“Africa is rising”, declared Gbadega Adedapo, president of the Nigerian Publishers Association, on the final day of the Sharjah Publishers Conference, ahead of the Sharjah International Book Fair.  Part of the reason for that rise was touched on in keynote addresses by Samuel Kolawole, chair of the African Publishers Network (APNET) and Sheikha Bodour al Qasimi, vice-president of the International Publishers Association (IPA).

Kolawole said: “As the Global Partnership for Education observed ‘Africa is currently the youngest continent in the world and will continue to be for the next several decades.  By 2100, almost half of the world’s young people will be African.’”

He described the Memorandum of Understanding signed on the sidelines of the IPA’s Africa seminar in Nairobi earlier this year as a landmark agreement and said that looking ahead, APNET and the IPA should focus on a number of areas including capacity building and manpower development through regional workshops and training; develop sustainable data generation, the lack of which is a much mentioned problem in the region; and “supporting the promotion of intra-African book trade, especially in view of the enormous opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Agreement which is bringing together the 1.2 billion population of Africa across 54 countries in a single market with a GDP of more than $3 trillion”.

In Sheikha Bodour’s well-received speech she talked about the importance of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.  “They have the growth potential. They are attracting more attention on the global stage as publishing and pop culture become more globalised.  And of course, the device in our pockets is only making this happen more quickly.

“I believe that it is in these emerging markets that the readers of the future are to be found.  Around 90% of the global population under 30 are in emerging markets, with Africa and the Middle East having the highest proportion. Emerging and developing markets also account for almost 60% of global GDP, up from just under half only a decade ago. These are the book buyers of the future and it is our duty as publishers to provide them with the material they need so that they can lead successful, fulfilled lives.”