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Celebrating Africa

3 July 2006

Just as Bob Geldof is pointing the finger at countries which pledged aid to Africa last year but have failed to deliver on their promises, the success of the inaugural Cape Town Book Fair has provided an encouraging signal for the book world. 10,000 tickets were initially printed but on the first day of the Fair word spread quickly that a reprint had been ordered and final numbers of visitors exceeded 20,0000. The Fair was open to the public with books on sale throughout and there were 700 events as part of the literary festival associated with it.

The Cape Town Book Fair has always been intended as a book fair for Africa as a whole. It is a joint venture involving the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. and the South African Publishers' Association, with sponsorship from the South African Times It showcased the development of black publishing and writing in post-apartheid South Africa. Traditionally the country has been seen as an important part of the British market, dominated by white South Africans and by local branches of international publishing companies. It is worth about £73 million ($135 million).

Now the Fair has shown the growing dynamism of black publishing and also the great interest in books amongst many black readers. The organisers can now plan for a bigger Fair next year, with this new event set to become a regular part of the international book fair circuit. More significantly, it will provide a chance for publishers to showcase their new books and reach the audiences both locally and from across the continent. Educational books will be of particular importance.

Another sign of African writers coming into their own is the growing success and critical reputation of the magazine African Review of Books, a pan-African literary journal which is acting as a showcase from some of the brightest new talents from across the continent. Its website provides international access to this new work.

Finally, Crossing Borders is a new British CouncilThis government-supported body is best-known for its activities overseas, but in fact provides a great deal of information which is of interest to writers.
Their UK Literature Festivals provides a full listing, but this is only as up to date as the information supplied by the individual festival organizers.
initiative which uses information technology to link young writers in Africa with experienced mentors in the UK to support their development.

In the midst of all the continuing problems in Africa, the book world has something to celebrate.

African Review of Books

Crossing Borders