IPA contest seeking projects to tackle Africa’s remote learning challenges




The International Publishers Association (IPA) is accepting project proposals to address the damaging impacts of Covid-19 on education in Africa, with grants from the $200,000 Africa Publishing Innovation Fund (APIF) available to the best ideas.

Africa-based entrepreneurs and innovators can pitch their ideas via the APIF website after which the APIF will provide a detailed application form via email.

After a thorough vetting process, the winners will be selected by the IPA Africa Publishing Innovation Committee, comprising senior publishing leaders from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tunisia and South Africa under the leadership of IPA’s VP, Bodour Al Qasimi.

The APIF is a four-year, $800,000 fund provided by Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organization, and administered by the IPA. The decision to incentivize learning innovations to help African students pursue their education follows the unprecedented, near-universal lockdown. Around 190 countries have had to close schools and universities, affecting more than 1.5 billion school-aged children – around 90% of the world’s student population.

Distance learning in Africa faces multiple difficulties, notably poor internet coverage in rural areas, cost, and students’ lack of technical means and funds to follow courses. According to UNESCO, 89 percent of learners in sub-Saharan Africa have no access to a computer, 82 percent have no internet access, and around 56 million learners live outside mobile networks. These challenges create a worrying digital and remote learning gap.

Bodour Al Qasimi, the VP at IPA,  said: ‘The immediate effects of lockdown are clear, but the risks of serious, longer-term harm to education are only beginning to be understood. Covid-19 has taught us that technology can protect people and enable life and learning to continue. But this technology is not accessible to everyone. We are looking for bright minds and clever solutions to overcome these challenges in Africa by bringing learners, teachers and educational materials closer at a safe distance.’

Speaking about the importance of overcoming the challenges that the publishing industry is facing in Africa as a result of COVID-19 outbreak, Dr Tariq Al Gurg, the CEO at Dubai Cares and Member of its Board of Directors said: “The COVID-19 pandemic could be seen as a tipping point to digital transition in the publishing industry in Africa. This global health crisis also represents an opportunity for African publishers to put forward innovative solutions that will help them map strategies to overcome future challenges. We look forward to witnessing a high turnout among entrepreneurs and innovators in Africa along with their unique solutions and ideas in support of the publishing industry.”

This will be the second round of bursaries 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 International Publishers Association (IPA), the world’s largest trade association for publishers. In 2019, five African projects each won $20,000 from the fund, while a library restoration in Nairobi was allocated $50,000.

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.

Since its inception, Dubai Cares has been working towards providing children and youth in developing countries with access to quality education through the design and funding of programs that aim to be integrated, impactful, sustainable and scalable. As a result, the UAE-based global philanthropic organization has successfully launched education programs reaching over 20 million beneficiaries in 59 developing countries.

Dubai Cares is playing a key role in helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030, by supporting programs in early childhood development, access to quality primary and secondary education, technical and vocational education and training for youth, as well as a specific focus on education in emergencies and protracted crisis.

In the UAE, Dubai Cares engages residents through a series of volunteer, awareness and fundraising initiatives that are linked to its global mandate. These initiatives include the annual Walk for Education, Volunteer Emirates, Volunteer Globally and Ramadan Campaign.

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