Bellagio Publishing Network meets in Copenhagen for APNET evaluation
Co-ordinator, Bellagio Publishing Network
This year's annual meeting of the Bellagio Publishing
Network was generously hosted once again by DANIDA, together with the
newly operational Danish Centre for Culture and Development, headed
by the former director of Denmark's Images of Africa festival. Copenhagen
in December is a different city from Copenhagen in June, when we last
met there during the 1996 Images of Africa. This time there was snow
on the ground and by 4.00 pm it was dark. We met in rooms decorated
with candles and clove oranges, ate in the magically festive Tivoli
Gardens, and shared out the coats, boots, gloves and scarves.
The first day concentrated on the evaluation of
APNET, commissioned by Sida on behalf of all the donors in the Bellagio
Group, and carried out by a Danish consultancy firm, COWI, who were
selected jointly by Sida and APNET. The COWI team began work during
the Zimbabwe International Book Fair in August, guided by terms of reference
hammered out by APNET and Sida, in consultation with the other donors.
The draft final report was ready a week or so before the meeting.
The evaluation was designed to assess the achievements
of APNET `with a view to promote learning within APNET and make recommendations
for the future'. Also under scrutiny was the effectiveness of donor
support for APNET. By common acclaim the evaluators were outstanding
- perceptive and rigorous within a framework of constructive support.
The final report is due out in the first quarter of 1999.
The strength of the APNET-donor relationship is
that partners share policy concerns, it is not just about money, despite
repeated problems with funding. This was reflected in the decision taken
at the meeting to set up a working group of donors and APNET, chaired
by APNET, to work towards preparing a strategic five-year plan for APNET
and streamlining their funding.
The report picked up on discussions initiated
by the Oxford Secretariat at the previous year's Bellagio Publishing
Network meeting, which recommended the gradual transfer of donor co-ordination
and the organisation of meetings from Oxford to an expanded international
section of APNET's secretariat in Harare. APNET and the Bellagio Secretariat
will work together on the transfer. APNET plan to appoint an international
officer, who will train with the Oxford secretariat before helping implement
the transfer. We expect to organise our 1999 annual meeting together.
The following day's session provided Network members
with the opportunity to present information about their own organisations
and hear about others. Update reports came from APNET, ABC, the Bellagio
Secretariat and Book Aid International. Olle Nordberg of the Dag Hammarskjöld
Foundation introduced the new INPUDE Trust, which is set to replace
the Dag Hammarskjöld Loan Guarantee Fund (LGF) as a source of credit
for struggling publishers in East Africa. Based in Kenya rather than
Sweden, INPUDE's scope and content are broader than the LGF, with an
emphasis not only on book development and production, but also on marketing
and distribution. INPUDE is actively looking for partners, publishers
Sue Buckwell of the British Council welcomed an
invitation to address the meeting on the thorny question of whether
the British Council's commitment to promoting British publishing conflicts
with their ability to support indigenous African publishing. She vigorously
defended the Council's dual role in the teeth of equally vigorous opposition.
The British Council's policy is not to promote UK goods at the expense
of local goods, she told the meeting. In reply she heard of the lack
of locally published books in British Council libraries and exhibitions,
that British publishers squeeze out indigenous publishers in their own
search for a bigger share of the market, that in general the British
Council does not acknowledge `the bigger picture'. As one African publisher
explained, since African publishers are already doing much of the Council's
work in promoting the English language, the least the British Council
should do is work with them as partners.
Viviana Quiñones of the French NGO La Joie
par les Livres, part of the French National Children's Book Centre,
talked about their work in support of African children's literature
and publishing. They have a resource centre of African books published
in French and local languages, as well as books about Africa published
in France. La Joie par les Livres works with a range of libraries in
20 francophone African countries, and provides book boxes. It has also
produced an annotated bibliography of children's books in Africa.
La Joie par les Livres showed a collection of
African books at the Bologna Children's Book Fair in 1992. The Fair's
1999 exhibition, which is scheduled to be opened by the President of
Mali, is dedicated to illustrators from Africa (south of the Sahara).
This exhibition will then travel, including to the Zimbabwe International
Book Fair 1999. She urged APNET to send as many participants as possible
to the Bologna Book Fair.
This was the first time that we had had French
participation at a Bellagio meeting and we were delighted to welcome
not only La Joie par les Livres, but also Régine Fontaine from
the French Ministère des Affaires Etrangères, which is
supporting La Joie par les Livres's African initiative.
The other newcomers to the meeting were the World
Bank publisher, Dirk Koehler, and leader of new business development
in the office of the vice-president, Tia Duer. Dirk Koehler is already
known to APNET for his supportive work; as an experienced publisher
himself, he talks their language. He informed the meeting of some of
the activities he is able to do through his office in Washington, including
the newly launched Africa Publishing Initiative for bilingual English/Kiswahili
books on development, offered on tender to East African publishers,
an initiative which he intends to expand to other regions and languages.
Tia Duer outlined the changes in Bank policy currently under way under
the presidency of James Wolfensohn, and the new focus on culture for
Renato Matusse, Director of Culture in the Southern
Africa Development Community (SADC), who had met with APNET and the
Bellagio Publishing Network at the Stockholm agora on culture earlier
in the year, invited APNET's advice and support for SADC's work on issues
of cultural copyright, book policy and trade barriers in the region.
He explained that SADC was currently working on a protocol on culture
which would be legally binding on all SADC countries, expressing the
hope that a regional book policy would be part of the protocol.
African publishers had taken part in a major publishing
conference in Bali, Indonesia in April at the invitation of the US NGO
Obor, founder member of the Bellagio Publishing Network. Obor's director
Donna Anderton told the meeting that the APNET participants made a huge
impact at the conference. South-east Asian publishers were facing great
problems because of the current economic crisis. They benefited greatly
from hearing the experiences of the African publishers, well versed
as they are in surviving difficult circumstances. A new network of Obor
affiliates has been set up to help each other through difficult times.
As result of the recommendations of African publishers, the Japan Foundation
Asia Centre is funding a study to look at what the south-east Asian
publishing industry needs now. Donna Anderton wanted the meeting to
note that `there are publishers working today who would not be if APNET
had not been at the conference.' [end] [BPN, no 24, 1998, p. 2]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 24, 1998>>