Global publishing is a holistic affair and increasingly tech-driven at every level.
The news that Google is opening an AI research facility in the Ghanaian capital Accra, reported to be the first of its kind in Africa, is at first glance not much to do with publishing, but that’s to miss the bigger picture here of Africa’s rapid evolution from one-time digital backwater to being one of the fastest growing regions for digital engagement across all sectors, including publishing.

As well as the primary targets of developing solutions for healthcare, agriculture and education – the latter of course in which publishing plays a key role – IT News Africa reports,

The centre will also focus on enhancing Google Translate’s ability to capture African languages more precisely.

Of course Africa is a big place and its very size and diversity means traditional publishing struggles to make a meaningful impact on the continent even in the imported language sectors (English, French, Portuguese and Arabic) let alone indigenous languages.

For most African nations the education sector is the mainstay of the publishing industry, but with the embrace of digital new opportunities open up to reach further, less expensively and more effectively, even in indigenous languages.

As we’ve explored elsewhere, digital presents an exciting opportunity for African publishing, with some 474 million Africans online, led by Nigeria (111 million), Egypt (49 million) and Kenya (43 million), and after some understandable caution during the early part of this decade there is clear evidence many African publishing stakeholders are now looking at digital with fresh eyes.

Next month we have the Nigerian International Book Fair, where the theme is “Optimising New Technology in Book Development and Distribution” –

Optimising New Technology in Book Development and Distribution – Nigeria’s International Book Fair embraces the future

and in August the Ghana International Book Fair has the theme “Reaching the World Book Market through Effective Book Distribution Networks.”

In between, in June, we have the second African IPA Regional Seminar in Nairobi, which we covered here at TNPS –

International Publishers Association announces line-up for 2nd IPA Africa Seminar in Nairobi

and for which more details can be found in the IPA press release.

Here just to note that the IPA Seminar will focus on:

  • Education
  • Copyright protection and piracy
  • Developing the next generation of Africa’s publishers writers and artists
  • Digital disruption
  • The threat of self-censorship
  • How to create tomorrow’s readers
  • The struggle to preserve Africa’s indigenous languages
  • The need for data

In all instances digital offers solutions. The term digital here used in its widest sense, not just ebooks and digital audio. Although of course those on their own are a significant expansion opportunity for African publishers as we start the next decade.

Embracing all the digital options could  elevate African publishing to new heights quite impossible to entertain with the current model.

We explained a little about that here:

African Publishing – The $5 Billion Digital Opportunity as Nigeria becomes 7th largest country by online population