Zambezi Book Expo preps on course

HARARE - The first edition of the Zambezi Book Expo, which seeks to bring together stakeholders in the book industry, will run at the Harare International Conference Centre from September 24 to 26, the fair’s organisers have said.

Joy Madewu, the coordinator of the event, told the Daily News that the expo is a re-imagined book fair that will take note of the technological developments that have transformed Africa’s book and educational sectors over the last two decades.

“We therefore saw there was need to leverage book publishing and reading amidst these changes,” she said.

“The Zambezi Book Expo seeks to address the needs of stakeholders in the book sector, especially writers, publishers, booksellers, readers and educational institutions, among others.”

Madewu was, however, quick to point out that Zambezi Book Expo would not be a competitor for the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), which is traditionally held around the end of July to early August annually.

“We are not coming in as competitors to the ZIBF. Rather, we are complementing their efforts.

“The name Zambezi Book Expo carries pointers on our positioning as well. We are named after the Zambezi River — the fourth largest river on the continent and host to the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world.

“The Zambezi River also passes through about six to seven southern African countries. This makes the Zambezi Book Expo’s positioning very clear.”

Madewu noted that most book fairs in Africa did not address the needs of stakeholders with discussions often too technical and far removed from the real issues affecting the book sector.

“We say the Zambezi Book Expo is a re-imagined fair because it seeks to tackle pertinent contemporary issues. We must be asking ourselves what achievements we have registered in terms of rolling out e-libraries to the rest of the country,” she said.

“Have we failed to take on piracy head-on, with the intervention of available legislative frameworks? How can we harness digital publishing for the benefit of the writer in the wake of rampant piracy?”

The Zambezi Book Expo coordinator also debunked the impression in Zimbabwe and elsewhere in Africa that book fairs were dead.

“Rather, it is the way we do things. Outside Africa, book fairs enjoy huge followings.

“The Guadalajara Book Fair — run by a university by the same name in Mexico — is the world’s biggest with over 700 000 visitors and over 100 000 children, according to 2013 figures.

“The Turin Book Fair, which is one of the largest in Europe, attracted 300 000 visitors and over 1 400 exhibitors while the Frankfurt Book Fair had 300 000 visitors from over 130 countries,” Madewu said.

She added the three-day event will be  seized with the role social media plays in writing.

“We want to capitalise on social media. People are publishing short stories and poems on social media. We should find how writers could benefit from such creativity,” added the Zambezi Book Expo coordinator.

The expo’s programme includes workshops, panel discussions, awards, competitions, book market, children’s tent, music from the motherland, universities open day, among others.

The educational festival, which will run together with the book expo, will see a number of universities from all over the world participating.

“The educational festival will afford local universities the opportunity to create synergies with foreign institutions.

“The expo is an event one will be able to go with the whole family given the assortment of activities that will be taking place from games to do with writing to other forms of entertainment for all ages,” said Madewu.

She also added that her organisation invited four international writers who will interact with visitors to the expo.

“There are many international writers, some who have written non-academic books and readers never envisage meeting them at any point in their lives. This will be an opportunity to meet some of these illustrious names,” said the expo coordinator.

According to Madewu, the Zambezi Book Expo is determined to market Zimbabwe as an attractive tourist destination.

“To the world at large, we are urging them to grab this opportunity to visit the country. Zimbabwe was voted the ‘World’s Best Tourist Destination in 2014’, as well as ‘Favourite Cultural Destination’ by the European Council on Tourism and Trade last year, while the New York Times recently listed Zimbabwe among 52 places to visit in 2015.  Two of Zimbabwe’s festivals, the Harare International Festival of the Arts and the Victoria Falls Carnival were selected by CNN on ‘Seven African Music festivals too good to miss’,” she added.

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