The city of Accra has been selected as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) World Book Capital for 2023.
Cities designated as UNESCO World Book Capitals undertake to carry out activities with the aim of encouraging a culture of reading and diffusing its values in all ages and population groups in and out of the national borders.
Ghana is the fourth African country to have a city receive the title, after Egypt, Nigeria and Guinea.
Through the World Book Capital programme, UNESCO acknowledges the cities’ commitment to promote books and foster reading during a 12-month period.
Accra’s selection was done by UNESCO and advisory committees from major sectors of the book industry to promote libraries.
The announcement was made at a ceremony to commemorate the 2022 World Book and Copyright Day organised by the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC) in Accra yesterday.
The commemoration was on the theme: “Reading to develop minds”, and attended by key players in the book industry and some schoolchildren.
It was organised in partnership with the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, the Ghana Publishers Association (GPA), the Ghana Association of Writers, the Copyright Ghana and UNESCO Ghana.
World Book Capital title
The Literacy Promotions Manager of the GBDC, Daniel Ofosu Asamoah, said the country had earmarked three million Euros to implement the year-long programme, which would include the promotion of reading, infrastructure, creative skills, fundamental human rights, arts and culture, access to information and books and book development.
He said bidding for the designation had been competitive, noting, therefore, that the title represented an important symbolic acknowledgement for Accra and the country as whole.
“In Ghana, the commemoration of the day has become more significant because of the designation of Accra as the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2023,” he said.
Due to the selection, key players in the book industry at the event expressed commitment to work together to promote the reading of books in the country.
They were the Principal Research Officer of the Copyright Office, Sheila Narki Djangmah; the President of the Ghana GPA, Asare Konadu Yamoah, and the Head of Schools and Colleges Library of the Ghana Library Authority (GLA), Sampson Osenda.
Discussing prospects of the Accra World Book Capital, Mr Yamoah said the availability of books was the only way to ensure that the country effectively implemented the year-long programme.
“The whole project of Accra being the World Capital, with all the activities hinging on books; we have, for our part, encouraged our members to publish new titles that are more situated in areas such as domestic violence, poverty, among others.
“We will also take the opportunity of the title gained to organise book exhibitions and showcase quality books during such events,” he said.
He also called for the promotion of electronic books, noting that the digital space of the book industry was growing.
Mr Osenda noted that Ghana had a total of 61 libraries from 1950 to 2018, while between 2018 and 2022, the number had increased to 109.
He said that showed improvement, and called on the government and the public to support the GLA to increase the number of libraries in the country.
Mrs Djangmah, for her part, expressed the commitment of her office to educate the public on copyright by organising events to teach writers their rights and responsibilities when it came to copyright.
The Secretary-General of the Pan-African Writers Association (PAWA), Dr Wale Okediran, in a presentation, indicated the importance of reading to include strengthening the brains and improving mental and physical health.
“We must, therefore, make books available through literary workshops, competitions, e-publishing, special books such as the Braille, audiobooks, film adaptations and school literary awareness campaigns,” he said.
The Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay, in a speech read on her behalf, expressed UNESCO's commitment to continue to promote access to books and reading.
She also called on all UNESCO partners to advocate the importance of books as a force to address contemporary challenges, understand political and economic realities and combat inequalities and misinformation.