Accra is poised to be declared as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Book Capital for the year 2023. This was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) and Mayor of Accra, Mr. Nii Adjei Sowah, after a meeting in Accra with some officials of the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC) and the AMA. The title, the Mayor announced, would help put Accra on the world map of books, promote reading and literacy in Accra (and the country in general), and also boost the domestic book industry. The title will also help increase the inflow of foreign tourists to Accra and grow the domestic economy.
The concept of the UNESCO World Book Capital was conceived by the International Publishers Association (IPA), six years after the launch of the World Book and Copyright Day, which is celebrated on 23rd April every year, by UNESCO. The title was first awarded in 2001 to Madrid (Spain), and has since been awarded every year to a different city. Upon designation, the winner city is to promote books and reading among all the various age groups in the city in particular, and internationally in general. The designated city holds the title from April 23 of that year, to April 22 of the following year. During that period, the city organizes a number of lively events around books, literature and reading. In addition to being prestigious, the title is used to promote books, libraries, a reading culture, literacy, and a vibrant book trade.
The title is also used to promote tourism and the cultural heritage of the city. Bidding for the title is therefore competitive, and winning it is deemed an important symbolic acknowledgement of the city (and country as whole). The title is usually conferred two years in advance of the title year, hence the winner of the 2023 title will be announced this year.
The designation of a city as the World Book Capital, has enormous educational, economic and socio-cultural benefits. The economic benefits associated with the title include a boom in the tourism and hospitality industry from increased inflow of tourists to the city (and the country in general). Additionally, the promotion of books, reading, library facilities, archives, museums and other places of interest impact positively on the domestic book industry and education. Not only do writers, publishers, printers, book distributors, etc. benefit economically through the increased patronage of books and reading, they are also exposed to the international community.
The socio-cultural benefits include the overall improvement in individual lifestyles and the society when people appreciate the importance of reading and literacy, and actually do make time to read. The year-long activities surrounding books and reading has the potential of boosting the academic performance of pupils and schools. The diverse programmes will also help children in particular, cultivate the habit of reading not only for education purposes, but also for recreation or leisure. Furthermore, the title will help promote the rich cultural heritage of Accra (and Ghana in general) to the international community.
Winning the title also represents an acknowledgment of UNESCO’s recognition of the efforts being made by the city to develop the habit of reading and promotion of books in general, hence the prestige associated with the title. Furthermore, the title will advance the country’s efforts in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
The previous winners include Port Harcourt (Nigeria) in 2014 and Conakry (Republic of Guinea) in 2017. Accra is poised to be the third city in Sub-Saharan Africa to win the title, and will go all out to submit a winning bid in April this year. Thus in collaboration with relevant stakeholders which include the Ministry of Education; Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Creative Arts; publishers, writers, book printers, librarians and booksellers in Accra, all efforts will be made to ensure the 2023 title is conferred on Accra.