Africa in Action At IPA Seminar Nairobi

A snapshot of the International Publishers Association seminar in Nairobi in June 2019.

The International Publishers Association hosted a major seminar in Nairobi, Kenya from June 14-15, 2019. The theme was “Realising Africa’s Potential as a Global Publishing Leader in the 21st century.”

The International Publishers Association (IPA), founded in 1896, is the world’s largest federation of national, regional and specialist publishers’ associations. Its membership comprises of 81 organisations from 69 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas.

The IPA has in the recent past started focusing on a huge part of the world publishing market that has long been neglected; Africa. The mission to transform Africa’s publishing future formally started last year with a seminar at the commercial capital of the continent’s most populous country Nigeria. The Lagos event was attended by some of the leading professionals in the publishing industry from across the continent and abroad.

In June 2019, it was the turn of Kenya to host this coveted event with the IPA, alongside their local partners the Kenya Publishers Association. Here is a snapshot of the many activities that happened in the Kenyan capital over the few days in mid-June 2019.


IPA President Hugo Setzer with APNET Samuel Kolawole
IPA President Hugo Setzer with APNET Samuel Kolawole

There were a few events that happened before the official seminar program kicked off on June 14 one of which was the Africa in Action initiative. This initiative aimed to empower African publishers and associations by bringing them together to discuss pivotal issues faced in the region, innovate scalable solutions and create a movement of change through signed agreements and action plans. During this event, IPA had two Memorandum of Understanding agreements set with African Publishers Network (APNET) and Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA).

The APNET agreement promises collaboration between both parties to advance common industry goals and promote the development of the publishing industry in Africa. The ADEA agreement, on the other hand, promised to promote the adoption and implementation of national book and reading policies in Africa and facilitate dialogue between various actors in the publishing industry.

Another of these events was the PublisHer dinner that hosted many of the leading women in African publishing and its ecosystem. You can read more about that event here.

Opening addresses

Ngugi Wa Thiong'o at the IPA Seminar in Nairobi
Ngugi Wa Thiong’o at the IPA Seminar in Nairobi

Each of the days of the seminars would kick off with opening addresses from eminent personalities. On the first day, that role would be conducted by International Publishers Association President Hugo Setzer, Kenya Publishers Association’s chairman Lawrence Njagi, Colonel Retired Cyrus Aguna for the government of Kenya and special guest Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o with a keynote address. On June 15, the day would be kicked off by International Publishers Association Vice President Bodour Al Qasimi.

Publishing ecosystem talks

IPA Vice President Bodour Al Qasimi with World teacher of the year 2019 Peter Tabichi
IPA Vice President Bodour Al Qasimi with World teacher of the year 2019 Peter Tabichi

Throughout the seminar, there were addresses referred to as “publishing ecosystem talks” where knowledgeable individuals shared their expertise with delegates over a quarter of an hour. One of these was by World teacher of the year 2019 Peter Tabichi addressing the challenges faced by African educational systems and schools and how the publishing industry can help. Then there was Dubai Cares Senior Technical Advisor Anna Bertmar Khan who spoke on the impact of mother tongue on teaching and learning in early childhood education.

Deborah Ahenkorah, co-founder of Accord Literary, gave a short talk on cultivating the next generation of publishing industry leaders while Giacomo D’Angelo the StreetLib CEO spoke about emerging, disruptive business models in the publishing industry and the digital transformation imperative. The Book Bunk co-founders Wanjiru Koinange and Angela Wachuka spoke about transforming public libraries into community centres for the digital age.

Nielsen Book Research International director Andre Breedt spoke on building publishing industry stakeholder support for national book retail sales data collection systems. East African Education Publishers Chairman Dr Henry Chakava spoke about how the publishing industry can support African authors in reaching global audiences and publishing in indigenous languages.


There were a dozen or so panels with the intention of sharing knowledge within the African publishing ecosystem. You can read about the panels here.


The evening of June 14 had a performance of “Musicality of Language: A Multilingual Performance of Professor Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o’s ‘The Upright Revolution’” by thespian Ngartia and Company. The story blends myth and folklore with an acute insight into the human psyche and politics to explain how and why humans began to walk upright. Originally written in Kikuyu and currently translated into 74 languages, it holds the record of being the most translated story in the history of African literature.

At the closing evening, there was a sumptuous dinner, entertainment from the Gogosimo band and the announcement of the host of the next seminar; Marrakesh, Morocco.

Art exhibition

‘Read. Write. Create. Africa’ is an art exhibition of the photography collection by Omar Victor Diop celebrating books and Africa’s rich heritage, culture, and languages. Omar had a mini-exhibition where he showcased five of his pieces during the seminar in the main hall. The full exhibition will be seen at the Xposure exhibition in Sharjah as part of the Sharjah World Book Capital 2019 celebrations.

Sightseeing tours

Two days of intense sessions were followed by a day for those who wanted to see the East African country’s famous wildlife. That’s one innovative way publishing can help the local tourism industry.


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