Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 25, July 1999 



Katherine Salahi
Katherine Salahi is the Coordinator, Bellagio Publishing Network

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.]

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