Hugo Setzer

Notes from the road: from Nairobi to Seoul, via Berlin

Jose-Borghino-Jessica-Saenger-Hugo-Setzer-Berlin-June-2019

What do Kenya, Germany and Korea have in common? There are all members of IPA, and during June I had the unique opportunity to make a two-week trip to all three of them.

It was a highly enriching trip, that gave me the opportunity to experience first-hand different cultures and ways of thinking, where nevertheless publishers confront similar problems.

My first stop was Nairobi, Kenya, to attend the IPA regional seminar, superbly organized by IPA’s Vice-President, Bodour Al Qasimi, and the Kenya Publishers Association.

While being there, I realized we often make the same mistake that is made when thinking of Latin America: that all countries in the region are the same. Having the chance to talk to publishers of more than 40 different countries during the seminar in Nairobi, I could see and learn about the particularities of each country. 

One of the things I learned in Nairobi, is the importance of indigenous languages. In Africa there are dozens of them, which need to be nurtured.  Professor Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was one of our keynote speakers, talked about the importance of rescuing indigenous languages in the continent and said that “Monolingualism is the carbon monoxide of cultures. Multilingualism is the oxygen of cultures.

The day before the seminar, IPA and KPA organized a meeting called Africa in Action, with Presidents of more than 40 African publishers associations. During this meeting I signed, on behalf of IPA, historic Memoranda of Understanding with the African Publishers Network, APNET and with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, ADEA. 

The seminar’s theme was carefully crafted: Africa Rising. According to an article by John McKenna in a WEF publication, “by 2030 one in five people will be African. Combine the continent’s soaring population with technology, improvements in infrastructure, health and education, and Africa could be the next century’s economic growth powerhouse.”

After my visit and the numerous conversations I had with so many African publishers, I believe that.

Asante sana (thank you very much) to Lawerence Njagi, President of the Kenya publishers Association and all his members, for their wonderful hospitality and great job organizing the seminar.

 

In Berlin, Germany, I had the chance to attend the German Publishers and Booksellers Association’s General Assembly, to speak, in German, about the work we do at IPA to represent publishers’ interests around the globe, especially in relation with Copyright and freedom to publish.

Germany is one of the most developed and wealthy nations, to a large extent thanks to a long tradition of creativity and innovation, based on creations of the intellect that are protected by copyright.  

And Germany is also a publishing powerhouse: according to www.worldatlas.com, Germany is the third largest publishing market and still thriving.

After the GA, IPA’s Secretary General José Borghino and I attended the “Mitgliederfest” or members party, at a beautiful terrace on a very warm summer evening, We had some German beer and sausages and interacted with the German publishers, who told us about the challenges they face. After a study last year showed the loss of about 6 million readers, it seems the campaign they have undertaken is showing positive results 

Vielen dank (thank you very much) to President Riethmüller, to Jessica Sänger, who also is our Copyright Committee Chair, to German publisher and VP of FEP, Peter Kraus and so many other members of the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels for hosting us.

 

Then I went on to Seoul, to attend the Seoul International Book Fair and the Prix Voltaire ceremony.

After having organized an extremely successful IPA Congress in Seoul in 2008, the Korean Publishers Association is back on track.

The first day, shortly after arrival, we were invited to Bongeunsa, one of the most visited Buddhist temples in Korea’s capital, right in the middle of Seoul’s financial district, to a special dinner, hosted by the Buddhist monks of the temple, who had even prepared themselves a delicious typical Korean dinner.

Korea’s publishing market is now thriving, with a flourishing publishing industry, impressive bookstores and libraries. Korea had its own struggles to gain the freedom to publish they enjoy nowadays and today it is becoming a beacon of hope in the region.

The KPA did a wonderful job organizing the Prix Voltaire ceremony in the magnificent Changdeokgung Palace, one of the five grand palaces of Seoul.

The moving ceremony was held in front of what used to be the library of the palace, with the presence of the recipient’s brother Mahmoud Lotfi, who delivered a touching speech on behalf of his unjustly imprisoned brother Khaled, and numerous local and international guests.

IPA calls on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to grant Khaled Lotfi a presidential pardon. He has already served over a year in prison, away from his loved ones. A high price for publishing a book.

Hamsamida (thank you) to President Yoon Chul-Ho and all the members of the Korean publishers Association.

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