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The International Publishers Association (IPA), in partnership with Dubai Cares – the global philanthropic organisation based in the United Arab Emirates – is offering financial support for African publishing entrepreneurs to tackle the impact of Covid-19 on education in 2020 and beyond.

A four-year fund of $800,000 administered by the IPA will be directed towards “locally-owned, digital learning innovations to help African students continue their education”.

The initiative recognises what the IPA calls “the overnight predominance of home-schooling and remote learning amid the pandemic which, according to UNESCO, has forced 190 countries to close down schools and universities, affecting more than 1.5 billion school-aged children and youth, which represent around 90% of the world’s student population”.

The winners will be selected by the IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Committee (APIC), which comprises senior publishing leaders from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa.  The group is chaired by IPA Vice-President, Bodour Al Qasimi, founder and CEO of Kalimat publishers in Sharjah, UAE, who said: ‘The Covid-19 pandemic has sent young learners and parents scrambling to find workable remote learning solutions with little guidance or support. It is critical that students don’t get left behind, especially in African countries where infrastructure and technological challenges are greatest. With the Africa Publishing Innovation Fund the IPA has an opportunity to help improve this picture, by enabling local innovators to provide learning solutions that African schoolchildren and university students need.’

Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, said: “The publishing industry plays a pivotal role in education throughout the world, and in such challenging times where Covid-19 has heavily affected education, this role will be eroded if we do not put forward innovative solutions that provide easy access to learning resources.”

The IPA’s APIC will issue a formal call for applications on 1 June 2020. It will subject applicants to a rigorous vetting process involving a written application, in-person interviews, presentations and multiple feedback sessions. The number of grantees and amounts awarded are at the discretion of the APIC.

The grants will be the second bursaries awarded under a Memorandum of Understanding signed in May 2019 between Dubai Cares, part of Dubai ruler Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s philanthropic body Global Initiatives, and the IPA.  In 2019 five African projects each won $20,000 from the fund, while a library restoration was allocated $50,000.

The members of the IPA’s Africa Publishing Innovation Committee are: Akoss Ofori-Mensah (Ghana) MD Sub-Saharan Publishers; Brian Wafawarowa (South Africa), Chief Content and Product Officer at Juta and Company (Pty) Ltd and Chair of the IPA Inclusive Publishing and Literacy Committee; Gbadega Adedapo (Nigeria), President, Nigerian Publishers Association; Lawrence Njagi (Kenya), Chairman, Kenya Publishers Association; and Mohamed Salah Maalej (Tunisia), General coordinator of Tunisia’s International Book Fair and President of the Arab and International Exhibitions Committee in the Arab Publishers Association.