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Formulating a viable book policy for a depressed economy

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Chairman, Lagos State chapter of Nigerian Publishes Association, Mr. Alli Semaka Okunade (left); Mrs. Folake Bademosi; president, Nigerian Publishers Association, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo; the association’s Executive Secretary, Mr. Emmanuel Abimbola and member, Mr. Olakunle Sogbein at the press briefing last… in Lagos

…As world publishers meet in Lagos
Today, leaders in publishing across the world will meet in Lagos to chart a path to a sustainable future in Africa’s publishing. Coming shortly after the world celebrated two significant cultural events such as World Book and Copyright Day (April 23) and World Intellectual Property Day (April 26), the seminar of International Publishers Association 2018 in Lagos, Nigeria, will further raise awareness on issues about the importance of books as cultural products. It has ‘Publishing for Sustainable Development: The Role of Publishing in Africa’ as theme.

International Publishers Association’s seminar is in partnership with Nigerian Publishers Association (NPA) and Nigerian International Book Fair (NIBF). According to NPA president, Mr. Gbadega Adedapo, the seminar will look at the role of publishers in the development of Africa, “with expository sessions that elucidate how government and stakeholders could tap into the opportunities in publishing industry and unlocking the potential of major players in the industry.

The topics were carefully put together to unite the voice of African publishers and writers, harmonizing the interest of all stakeholders for the benefits of all and it is believed that Africa would take a cue from facts, opinions and working strategies that would be shared at the event.”

However for stakeholders in the country, the concern is the yet-to-be formulated coherent book policy, which they blame on government’s weakness and poor appreciation of issues in the publishing eco-system.

A critical stakeholder, Mr. Olakunle Sogbein, said the absence of a book policy is a major problem, as its absence means that there is no defined guide for the actors to have a robust book sector.

“A book policy will have a multiplier effect on education,” Sogbein said. “It’s absence is part of the weakness, ineffective governments in Nigeria. For a country that is developing, we need a book policy, as literacy is the foundation of a country, but we haven’t been able to do that.”

At the heart of a viable book policy, Sogbein said, is making books affordable to address the huge problem of illiteracy in the country. He said government should revive the three moribund paper mills in the country to provide cheap paper for publishing, encourage authors to write books that emanate from the local environment, provide grants for specialised publishing, revive library culture that buys books from authors, encourage young authors.

Sogbein said publishing is a multi-million naira business that is fractured at the moment because of poor coordination. He tasked Nigerian Education, Research and Development Commission (NERDC) and the federal Ministry of Education to develop an integrated blueprint that addresses issues in the sector.

An Abuja-based children’s author, Salamatu Sule, also said government has failed to address the book sector and hinted at pushing the issue at the National Assembly to fast-track enacting a National Book Policy to guide the sector.

“The book policy should address things like author-publisher relationship, intellectual property rights and piracy, royalty issues, endowment for the arts sector and availability of books in all spheres of our national life,” Sule stated.

Relevant topics the seminar will address in six panel sessions include ‘The socio-economic contributions of the publishing industry in Africa,’ ‘Strengthening educational publishing in Africa,’ ‘Addressing freedom to publish challenges in Africa,’ ‘Bringing the voice of African writers, publishers and content creators to the world,’ ‘Role of technology in overcoming illiteracy and promoting a reading culture,’ and ‘Enhancing enforcement of copyright and IP laws.’

To deliver the welcome address at the seminar will be the president of IPA, Dr. Michiel Kolman.


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