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The International Publishers Association (IPA) will begin accepting proposals for projects to develop reading culture beyond the classroom in Africa, with grants from the USD 200,000 Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF) on offer to the best ideas.

African publishing leans heavily towards education – up to 90% of sales in some markets – with reading widely viewed exclusively as a means to further schooling or professional skills. In parallel, many African publishers are overdependent on selling printed textbooks to governments, a one-track business model that left them foundering when COVID-19 closed schools and drove learning online.

The 2022 APIF theme of cultivating reading culture is intentionally broad to attract a wide range of innovations. Examples could be developing the publishing value chain (authors, illustrators, translators, literary agents, booksellers, distributors etc.) or increasing access to books, such as through public libraries.

The APIF Committee, led by IPA President Bodour Al Qasimi and comprising veteran publishers from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa, believes cultivating reading for fun in Africa – especially among children and young adults – stands to bring continentwide socioeconomic advancements in the medium to long term.

Bodour Al Qasimi said: ‘The joy of reading and its enormous benefits to mental wellbeing, intellectual capacity and social aptitude are there for the taking in Africa, where 60% of the population is under 25 years old. Moreover, a diversified book sector is good for publishing and its many satellite industries, which employ hundreds of thousands of people. This year’s APIF challenge is especially exciting because it is so far-reaching, and I am hoping to see some really big ideas to get more Africans reaching for a book in their spare time.’

Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares and Member of its Board of Directors said: “Reading is one of the most essential life skills that can open people’s minds to a world of possibility and discovery. Therefore, instilling and nurturing a culture of reading cannot be limited to the classrooms and students alone. The goal of the APIF challenge this year is to expand the scope of reading beyond the four walls of schools and encourage ideas and innovations that will take this wonderful experience beyond the education fold, and make it more inclusive to a wider audience. We at Dubai Cares are confident of the response that APIF will receive for this challenge, and look forward to the impact this will have on the wider African community across all age groups.”

HOW TO APPLY

From 1 June to 31 August 2021, Africa-based entrepreneurs and innovators can pitch their ideas via the APIF website, at www.apinnovation.fund, after which they will receive a form to fill and return to [email protected] The eventual winners will be selected by the IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Committee.