Report of the Bellagio Publishing Network annual
meeting, Oxford, September 1997
Katherine Salahi is co-ordinator of the Bellagio
Donors, publishers and intermediaries met at St
Peter's College, Oxford in September for the annual Bellagio Publishing
Network meeting. APNET publishers Richard Crabbe, Hamidou Konate and
Victor Nwankwo came direct from a World Bank seminar in Washington DC
on the textbook publishing industry (reported on page 2 of this issue),
opening the meeting with their report and discussions as a timely reminder
of the global context in which African publishing operates.
A more sobering reminder of Africa in the international
context was provided by the news that Damien Pwono, senior program advisor
to the Rockefeller Foundation's Arts and Humanities Division and a key
person in the Bellagio Group, was unable to attend the meeting as planned
because he had been refused a British visa in Nairobi. Dr Pwono is Zaïrean/Congolese,
reason enough, it appears, to be feared as a bogus asylum-seeker.
This was the first Bellagio meeting for the new
APNET Board and the first time for Gillian Nyambura and Hamidou Konate
to take part in discussions with the Bellagio donors collectively. A
number of new faces among the donors too - Willem Veenstra of the Netherlands
Foreign Ministry, Samuel Matsangaise of CTA, Lisbet Rubinstein of Danida,
Maria Stridsman of Sida and Mikki Shepard of the Rockefeller Foundation,
as well as ADEA represented by Carew Treffgarne of the (British) Department
for Inter-national Development (DFID) - gave added impetus to one of
the main aims of the meeting, reinforcing the partnership between different
players in the Network, in particular African publishers and donors.
Gillian Nyambura spoke eloquently on behalf of
APNET's work in helping build viable publishing industries across the
continent, from the broad vision and mission defined at last March's
reflection meeting (see Newsletter no. 20), to the detailed proposal
for strengthening national publishers associations as the lynchpins
of the enterprise.
The theme of partnership remained the focus during
the sessions that included intermediary organisations and individuals.
Richard Crabbe shared APNET's views of what constitutes good and not-so-good
partnerships. The purpose of partnership, he said, is to combine different
strengths to achieve common objectives. A partnership does not mean
that there is always agreement, but where there is commitment, trust
and respect, disagreement can be manageable. Partners do need to work
to understand each other's constraints and understand the realities
in which each partner is working. For example, policy decisions in APNET
are made by the Board, which meets twice a year and is geographically
scattered with frequent difficulties in communications, so the Harare
Secretariat's responses are not always as quick as others might like.
Similarly, donors are bound by their organisations' mandates, meaning
that proposals need to be timed and focused accordingly.
Intermediaries addressed the meeting in the context
of capacity building for African publishing. We welcomed Donna Anderton
of Obor, successor to Obor's first director Ivan Kats, who initiated
the 1991 conference at Bellagio on publishing and development in the
third world out of which this network was born. Paul Osborn described
the transformation of the ONE Foundation into Médiateurs, which he now
represents. Cath Nicholson and Sara Harrity reported on Book Aid International's
sterling work in support of African publishing, much of it in collaboration
with the African Books Collective. Kelvin Smith spoke about his work
with CODE Europe, and Mary Jay reported on SABDET.
APNET reported on recent developments within the
organisation before presenting their new three-year programme and budget
for discussion among the Bellagio Group of donors. Other reports during
the meeting included the African Books Collective, and the Bellagio
Secretariat. The Secretariat's proposal to transfer some of its activities
to the south were discussed at length. APNET clarified their need for
the Oxford Secretariat as a northern-based ally and advocate at least
in the near future, while communications south-north remain unreliable.
The meeting provided a valuable opportunity for
different players in the world of indigenous African publishing to get
to know each other and share ideas in a relaxed, informal context. [end] [BPN,
no 21, 1997, p 6.]
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