CBAAC Conference: Poet decries neglect of book, publishing industry

Mr Denja Abdullahi, former President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), on Friday urged government at all levels and African leaders to focus on grooming the book and publishing industry for economic diversification and growth.

Abdullahi, a poet, made the call during a  day-two international conference, organised by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilisation (CBAAC), held in Lagos.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that theme is, “Literature and the Creative Economy: Finding Relevance and Overcoming Misconceptions on the Book Industry’s Contributions to a Nation’s Economic Wellbeing”.

He said that Africans must begin to take the book industry seriously like the film and music sectors, to be able to tap the full potential in the creative industry and grow the economy.

According to Abdullahi, the book and publishing industry has not enjoyed attention compared with music, film and fashion aspects of the creative industry, which are known as the glamorous aspects.

He said that the book sector was the most resilient in the creative economy as it is tied to educational development and the knowledge society.

He noted that the book sector’s real contributions to a nation’s economic growth had been taken for granted because of the lack of empirical data.

He, however, called for the need to constantly generate data around the growth of the sector annually.

“Most African governments have a lukewarm attitude to the book sector. The  sector is essentially a builder of cultural and educational capital and indispensable to building a knowledge-based creative economy.

“There must be research-based mapping of the book sector’s real contributions to African nations’ economies with the maintenance of updated national bibliographies.

“Functional book development policies must be enacted to enhance the economic potentials of the sector.

“The African Union should pay attention to national associations of writers across the continent and support their activities, which keep alive the vibrancy of the book sector.

“The book sector also has to prove its relevance to the nation in real economic terms. Facts and figures have to be collated to prove the contributions of the sector to the nation’s GDP,” he said.

Abdullahi noted that the book sector was in need of a thorough self-appraisal toward tracking its economic potential and enhancing its capabilities to contribute substantially to national economy.

He explained that the book sector operated mainly without significant state support and within the lack of a functional book development policy as well as specialised government intervention measures.

He said that the book sector needed lots of interventions as it remains over dependent on imported raw materials and bedeviled by piracy.

According to him, this is because the sector is not strategically linked to the other sectors of the creative industry such as the film and music industries.

“The African Union should establish continental-wide literary prizes to encourage literary creativity and publishing in the continent.

“Continental-wide distribution of books should be established and sustained to encourage dialogue and understanding across countries in the spirit of Pan-Africanism.

“Organisation of major book fairs and literary festivals in each of the regions of Africa should be encouraged and sustained by AU and other regional groupings as they are platforms through which the book sector contributes to the economic growth of African nations.

“The residual income accruable in the book sector to practitioners should be protected with the advent of e-book and e-publishing through the protection of intellectual property and the establishment of collecting societies,” he said.

Also, Dr Osedebamen Oamen of the Department of Theatre and Media Arts, Ambrose Alli  University, Epkoma, Edo, said that for Nigerians to yield bountifully from the creative industry, the nation’s cultural policies must be adhered to.

Oamen said that the policy was the most favourably compared to other nations.

“The gap that exists between the cultural policy and creative economy in Africa should be closed to enhance cultural policy drive of the creative economy,” he said. 

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