New Pan African collaboration starts

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 11 to 13.

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 July 22 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 1-7), South Africa (September 11 to 13) and Kenya (September 24 to 27).

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 program 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 12.

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 program.

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 13.

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.”