New fund to nurture Africa’s reading culture

The International Publishers Association (IPA) will today begin accepting proposals for projects to develop reading culture beyond the classroom in Africa, with grants from the $200,000 Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF) on offer to the best ideas.

African publishing leans heavily towards education – up to 90% of sales in some markets – with reading widely viewed exclusively as a means to further schooling or professional skills. In parallel, many African publishers are overdependent on selling printed textbooks to governments, a one-track business model that left them foundering when COVID-19 closed schools and drove learning online.



The 2022 APIF theme of cultivating reading culture is intentionally broad to attract a wide range of innovations. Examples could be developing the publishing value chain (authors, illustrators, translators, literary agents, booksellers, distributors etc.) or increasing access to books, such as through public libraries.

The APIF Committee, led by IPA President Bodour Al Qasimi and comprising veteran publishers from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa, believes cultivating reading for fun in Africa – especially among children and young adults – stands to bring continentwide socioeconomic advancements in the medium to long term.

Bodour Al Qasimi said: ‘The joy of reading and its enormous benefits to mental wellbeing, intellectual capacity and social aptitude are there for the taking in Africa, where 60% of the population is under 25 years old. Moreover, a diversified book sector is good for publishing and its many satellite industries, which employ hundreds of thousands of people. This year’s APIF challenge is especially exciting because it is so far-reaching, and I am hoping to see some really big ideas to get more Africans reaching for a book in their spare time.’

Dr. Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares and Member of its Board of Directors said: “Reading is one of the most essential life skills that can open people’s minds to a world of possibility and discovery. Therefore, instilling and nurturing a culture of reading cannot be limited to the classrooms and students alone.”

“The goal of the APIF challenge this year is to expand the scope of reading beyond the four walls of schools and encourage ideas and innovations that will take this wonderful experience beyond the education fold, and make it more inclusive to a wider audience. We at Dubai Cares are confident of the response that APIF will receive for this challenge, and look forward to the impact this will have on the wider African community across all age groups.”

How to Apply

From 1 June to 31 August 2021, Africa-based entrepreneurs and innovators can pitch their ideas via the APIF website, at www.apinnovation.fund, after which they will receive a form to fill and return to info@apinnovation.fund. The eventual winners will be selected by the IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Committee.

The APIF is a four-year, USD 800,000 fund provided by Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organization, and administered by the IPA. This is the third round of grants awarded under a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in May 2019 between Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, and the IPA. Since then, the APIF has supported eight publishing innovations and four library projects.



The IPA is the world’s largest federation of publishers associations with 83 members in 69 countries. Established in 1896, the IPA is an industry body with a human rights mandate. The IPA’s mission is to promote and protect publishing and to raise awareness of publishing as a force for economic, cultural and social development.

Working in cooperation with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and numerous international NGOs, the IPA champions the interests of book and journal publishing at national and supranational level. Internationally, the IPA actively opposes censorship and promotes copyright, freedom to publish (including through the IPA Prix Voltaire), and literacy.