Spotlight on Africa: Nigeria’s Clever Clogs Books and the Akada Children’s Book Festival

With the International Publishers Association’s second African Seminar just two months away, TNPS is taking a close look at the many opportunities unfolding across this vast continent with a series of short posts and studies.

Today it’s the turn of a small Nigerian publishing house start-up in Lagos, Clever Clogs Books, that despite only having three titles to its credit, is leading the fight to raise the profile of children’s publishing in Africa’s most populated and most online nation.

First let’s clarify that last statement. Africa is widely regarded as a digital backwater where the internet is still a novelty. And it’s true Nigeria is only at 55% internet penetration

But here’s the thing. Nigeria has a population of 200 million, which means that 55% internet penetration in Nigeria equates to 111 million people, making Nigeria the seventh largest country in the world by internet users.

It’s a potentially huge book market and ideally positioned to embrace digital publishing.

In time that will happen, and we see clear signs of the shift in that direction, with the Nigeria International Book Fair next month taking the theme “Optimising New Technology in Book Development and Distribution for the Promotion of Book Trade in Africa.”

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

That said, digital is still in its infancy in most of Africa, and educational books aside the children’s publishing sector is behind the times in many ways.

Take children’s book fairs for example. While I can’t be certain, it appears there has been no dedicated children’s book fair on the continent until now.

And given the Akada Children’s Book Festival is a one-day event we clearly have a long way to go to raise children’s publishing in Africa to the status is deserves.

But it’s a great start, and all credit to Olubunmi Aboderin-Talabi, Clever Clogs Books founding publisher, and Debra-Love Aisida, festival director, both authors among many other accomplishments, for bringing us to this point.

The Akada Children’s Festival happens on April 27.

The Clever Clogs books are published in four languages – English, Yoruba, Hausa, and Igbo, in order to promote indigenous language usage in children’s literature.

The festival title, Akada, is a Yoruba word meaning “lover of literacy and books.”

On its about page the publishing house states,

Clever Clogs Books is a niche, start-up publishing house. Our books and events such as the Akada Children’s Book Festival, inspire, excite and entertain child, parents and teachers. We desire to see Nigeria attain a hundred percent literacy rate and we believe that this is possible in our lifetime.

Our contribution towards this goal is to efficiently run a business that produces beautifully-illustrated children’s picture books that excite and inspire children, parents and teachers. This is also why we organize the Akada Children’s Book Festival, which is arguably Nigeria’s first children focused book festival.

There appear to be no digital versions of these books available at this time, and that’s a shame.

With 111 million Nigerians online that’s a huge potential digital market being ignored, and of course digital means these same books could be available across Africa (474 million people online) and around the world (4 billion people online).

On a personal note, when I’m not writing about the global book markets I’m busy with nursery school projects in another part of West Africa and cannot begin to overstate how wonderful it would be to have books like these available to read on a smartphone or tablet.

But it would also be a potentially lucrative new revenue stream for this and other publishers, who could buy the rights and reproduce these books in other national and indigenous languages across the continent and beyond.

Read more about the Akada Children’s Book Festival here.

Visit the Clever Clogs Books website here.

Follow Clever Clogs Books on twitter: @CleverClogsBooks.

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