Katherine Salahi is the Coordinator, Bellagio
When APNET went knocking on the door of the World
Bank in 1993, few observers believed their mission would make any difference
to the Bank's textbook supply policy as far as Africa was concerned.
The African publishing industry was too weak and fragmented to take
on the multinational giants, who regularly swept up all the World Bank
tenders to supply African education ministries with books for schoolchildren.
Returning to Washington four years later, the
APNET team indeed perceived little change. Once again they were confronted
by the multinationals, this time in person round a seminar table. Several
of the APNET team flew straight from Washington to a Bellagio Publishing
Network meeting in Oxford, where they reported their anger at being
left out in the cold.
Jamaican publisher Ian Randle first talked to
the Bellagio Publishing Network secretariat a couple of years back about
his wish to have a publishers network similar to APNET in the Caribbean.
But APNET was already overloaded with its own programme within Africa,
and the Bellagio Group of donors were unequivocal about restricting
the Network focus to Africa.
Ideas may take time to germinate, but germinate
they do, as the articles by James Tumusiime and Ian Randle in this issue
demonstrate. At last, the World Bank is rethinking its textbook provision
policy. This should be welcomed as much for what it says about fresh
approaches in Washington as for its positive implications for African
publishers. In the case of the Caribbean, the APNET-style publishers
association is still at drawing-board stage, but looks like an idea
about to take off, with meetings planned and some funding already pledged.
As reality checks, Phaswane Mpe's article on the
actual impact for publishing of South Africa's language policy, Damola
Ifaturoti's plea for new blood in the Nigerian industry, and Henry Chakava's
experiences in dealing with the British all highlight the long, hard
way ahead. Abdullah Saiwaad's honest account of the failings as well
as the gains of Tanzania's recent book events provides a useful guide
for future organisers.
The book chain depends on strong links from start
to finish. This year's Bologna Children's Book Fair celebrated African
book illustrators alongside African-published children's books. This,
and the increasing number of prizes awarded to African-published writers,
is good news for African publishing. [end] [BPN, no 25, 1999, pp 3.]
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 25, 1999>>