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Seven African publishing-related projects are to share $170,000 from the African Publishing Innovation Challenge Fund established by UAE philanthropic body Dubai Cares and the International Publishers Association (IPA).  The announcement was made on the closing day of the Sharjah International Book Fair Publishers Conference.

Addressing delegates, Dr Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, said: “As a global philanthropic body, we believe that publishing has a transformative impact on education, reading and socio-cultural development. It also serves as a tool to address challenges such as illiteracy, poverty, conflict, inequality and unemployment.”

Through its partnership with the IPA he said that both bodies would work for the next four years with a range of local partners, including publishers, policymakers, and civil society, “to implement innovative and replicable solutions that transform the future of African publishing. Dubai Cares’ support to the IPA has also helped to establish the African Publishing Innovation Challenge Fund to promote approaches to longstanding publishing industry challenges and catalyze stakeholder co-investment”.

He continued: “Dubai Cares understands the powerful link between literacy and creating thriving societies. We have already implemented educational programs in more than 25 countries in Africa alone, bringing significant experience in literacy, Early Childhood Education, youth empowerment, tertiary education, ICT and Education in Emergencies, among others.

The companies and projects that will receive $20,000 are Accord Literary (Ghana), an authorship and reading initiative which will mentor, develop and encourage African authors in a number of countries who are writing for young readers; the publishing house

Cassava Republic (Nigeria), which plans to produce and translate 10 children’s books into three Nigerian languages; OkadaBooks (Nigeria), an e-publishing start-up that plans to drive literacy by giving teachers, students and parents free access to books their children can relate to via mobile phones, which are widespread and affordable; Positively African (Kenya), a content-creation and literary events company, will invest the money in the Story Jukebox, distributing African audio stories via digital platforms and partnerships with universities and centres for the visually impaired; and Puku Foundation (South Africa), a  nonprofit that promotes children’s literature, education and literacy in Southern Africa and is building a digital portal called Pukupedia as a hub for multilingual expertise in children’s literature.

Two further projects, both involving libraries, will receive $20,000 and $50,000 respectively.  Kakuma (Kenya), is the world’s largest refugee camp where Dubai Cares is spearheading a project to implement libraries for the resident students. Kakuma camp is home to refugees from DRC Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia and Uganda among others.  The money will be used to implement libraries for students and to provide books for children.

Book Bunk is a project to restore the McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi, has been awarded $50,000 towards work on the library’s Kaloleni branch.  Dubai Cares has also provided an additional $10,000 worth of children’s books to stock the library. Book Bunk works with the Nairobi authorities to encourage community engagement in libraries, through events, walking tours and film screenings.