Regional Workshop on National Book and Reading Policy Formulation in Africa

Date: 
5 December 2019 to 6 December 2019
Venue: 
Immeuble CCIA/BAD Plateau
City: 
Abidjan
Country: 
Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Background

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is advocating for the formulation, enactment and implementation of National Book and Reading Policies in African countries. Under the Books and Learning Materials (BLM) Section of its Inter Country Quality Node on Teaching and Learning, and in partnership with the USAID Global Book Alliance (GBA), ADEA organized preparatory forums during the past several months. The forums culminated in the validation of a Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policies Formulation (CFNBRPF) in Africa. ADEA, in close collaboration with the African Union Commission (AUC) and other partners, is keen to publicize the framework in African member countries as an essential guide for the developing national book and reading policies.

Since 2016 ADEA ICQN-TL-BLM Section has been on an advocacy campaign for the need for national book and reading policies in Africa. The main purpose has been to raise awareness on this important but neglected aspect of national development that cuts across all sectors of the economy because it supplies the much-needed information and knowledge that drives development across the board. It is a well-established fact that information is the basis for sound decision-making and those who rely on tested facts and figures are likely to make better decisions that drive forward the economy. Africa needs well-developed, organized and functioning book publishing industries for scientific and technological progress through innovations by its own people and to support and sustain literacy and lifelong learning critical for democratic participation and personal fulfilment.

In their quest of social and economic development, African countries have adopted various strategies to support their economies, one of which was formal education. For many years there was a natural tendency to adopt the education systems of those who colonised Africa and almost all the supporting services came from outside the continent. Book publishing, a key enabler of the education sector, was among the causalities, giving rise to multinational companies across Africa that dominated the industry until the early 1980’s when there arose a voice among African book traders, who advocated for African autonomous publishing. As a result, many international publishing firms especially in Anglophone countries became locally owned by local books professionals. Since then, there has been a steady growth of African owned publishing houses with the purpose of competing for the school market which is the bread and butter of the trade, but also to contribute towards advancing knowledge for the lowest to the highest levels of learners. But this has not been without major constraints, the key one being the lack of a policy to guide and strengthen this strategic industry.

Countries with well-developed and organized publishing industries that support authors, publishers/editors/illustrators, printers, booksellers, librarians, archivists and readers have improved literacy levels, including digital literacy, through institutionalized strategies that promote a reading culture and family literacy through well-developed school and public libraries. Increased levels of literacy lead to better informed democratic participation and personal fulfilment.

Such countries export huge numbers of titles to Africa and other emerging nations, especially for the tertiary market, raking billions of dollars annually. Africa is not only losing through these imports; it is also wasting the opportunity to help its own people develop their intellectual property and the much-needed wealth. 

Credit, however, has to be given to those African publishers who have continued to weather the storm despite the harsh environment in which they operate. Largely, some African countries have churned out a good number of publications for users at various levels. These countries need facilitation to perform better and thereby support national development efforts through quality education and supply of appropriate books, in line with the aspirations of Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the objectives of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25), and within the framework of the United Nations Agenda 2030.

Introduction

The story of book publishing in Africa clearly documents the myriad challenges it has faced and continues to face, despite the fact that it is expected to support the education, socio-cultural, economic and national development needs of each country. Interestingly, book publishing has rightly been described as the heartbeat of a nation, because it embodies the identity, soul, spirit and aspirations of a people; it also has to do with documenting the intellectual property and thereby enabling each country contribute towards the global  knowledge that comes of the various experiences relevant to a particular nation. For instance, China, Japan, India and other countries have demonstrated that nations grow faster when the national development agenda is driven by home grown knowledge and culture.

The book publishing industry is strategic in developing education quality in Africa. The continent requires a well-developed and functioning book publishing industry for scientific and technological progress through innovations by its own people, among other needs, for democratic participation and personal fulfilment. Therefore, the industry needs to be developed and nurtured through a well-articulated book and reading policy, as provided by the continental framework. The policy will also help in regulating the publishing sector, and guarding against stakeholders with selfish interests that stifle growth.

Next steps after validating the Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policies Formulation 

In June 2019, ADEA and GBA, in partnership with AUC convened a high level regional seminar that where countries and key stakeholders in attendance validated the Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policies Formulation. The meeting also encouraged African governments and their key partners to adopt the framework as a guide for the development of national book and reading policies in the continent. During this time the AUC launched the CESA Africa Reading Culture Cluster which should greatly lend credibility to National Book and Reading Policies by complimenting the work publishers do through the promotion of reading activities throughout Africa.

In the wake of the validated Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policy, ADEA will create awareness among African countries on the use of the framework to guide the respective national book and reading policy development. ADEA will support the involvement the relevant stakeholders in the process, led by Ministries of Education and/or Culture, in establishing well-structured National Book Development Councils (NBDC) to spearhead the policy formulation through a participatory approach. The expectation is that once National Book and Reading Policies are formulated and implemented, Africa’s socio-cultural and economic growth will be secured for the future generations. It is now time for Africa to work towards this realisation. 

Strategy

Working closely with AUC and GBA, the ADEA BLM section will involve high-level government officials in the ministries of education and/or culture that are responsible for policy guidelines and formulation, to discuss and agree on how to begin the process of policy formulation in their respective countries. Top officials of the African book publishing industries will accompany the government officials. 

ADEA will start with five countries in each seminar, deemed most ready for the uptake of this innovation. Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon in the Anglophone region; and Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso and Benin in the Francophone region are the first group of countries. 

The ADEA BLM Focal Points will make presentations on the need for policy framework and the importance of the framework to guide on the identified parameters for a good policy document. They will also identify experts in governments and industry who will make presentations on their readiness at policy formulation. The validated framework will provide the basis for discussion and will guide participants on a clear strategy that will be adopted to move the process of policy formulation forward. A tool kit will be developed and presented to facilitate policy formulation in member countries. These countries will become models to champion the progressive uptake of this innovation by other African countries.

Aim and Objectives

The aim of the seminar is to popularise and ensure buy-in of the Continental Framework on National Book and Reading Policy Formulation document among the ten countries through their ministries of education and/or culture. 

 Specific objectives are to:

  • Adopt the AU Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policy.
  • Discuss and agree on a harmonized approach to formulate NBRP strategies for each African country.
  • Present a toolkit to guide the formulation of national book and reading policies. 
  • Discuss and agree on the need to establish National Book Development Council as the coordinating agency in each African country.
  • Influence participating countries to commit towards policy formulation as a matter of priority.
  • Nominate Book Policy Champions from each African country represented.
  • Formally endorse and empower the committee members of the AUC-CESA Reading Culture Cluster.

Expected Outcomes

The expected outcomes are:

  • Clear understanding of the need for National Book and Reading Policies (NBRP).
  • Ownership by delegates of the validated continental framework for NBRP. 
  • Validation of harmonized toolkit to include a Policy brief, a specimen NBRP, and an NBRP formulation process outline.
  • Nomination and endorsement of Book Policy Champions
  • AUC CESA Reading Culture Cluster Committee launched and empowered.
  • Resolutions for commitment adopted