The Birth of the Idea
The idea to bid for Accra to be designated as the World Book Capital for the year 2023 was mooted some time in 2020 by Mrs Ernesticia Lartey Asuinura, the Executive Director of the Ghana Book Development Council (GBDC). This was after the unsuccessful first attempt at securing the 2019 title for Accra, which was also initiated by Ernesticia in 2016. Apparently, guided by the lessons learnt from the unsuccessful first attempt, Ernesticia had been strategizing since then, to lead the process once again to secure the title for Accra. Thus in 2020, she put together an internal team of five managers of the GBDC. Together with this team, they developed the Concept Note to bid for the 2023 title.
Early in January this year, the internal GBDC team, led by Ernesticia, set out to bring on board the other stakeholders, having obtained the backing of the Ministry of Education to proceed with the bid.
The Race for the Title
Ernesticia and her dynamic and youthful team of staff made up of Mr Joseph Agyiri (the then Information Technology Manager), Mr Daniel Ofosu-Asamoah (Literacy Promotion Manager), Ms Mavis Asante (Distribution Services Manager), Mr Kofi Asante Twumasi (Production Services Manager) and Mrs Edith Ababio-Amoah (Senior Accountant), supported by Ms Sandra Amihere (as the Secretary), officially reached out to the other stakeholders. Through the instrumentality of Mr Gabriel Nii Teiko Tagoe, (Chief Development Planning Officer, GAMADA) of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA), Ernesticia met with the then Mayor of Accra, Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah, to sell the idea to him. Mr Adjei Sowah gladly embraced the idea and soon thereafter, the candidature of Accra was announced to the media. With this public announcement, there was no turning back. The race for the title had only just begun.
The Bidding Committee
Having written to and obtained representation from major stakeholders, the bidding team was convened by GBDC. Specifically, the bidding team was made up of all the members of the internal GBDC team and the following persons:
1. Mr Gabriel Nii Teiko Tagoe representing the AMA,
2. Mr Riche-Mike Wellington representing the Ghana Commission for UNESCO,
3. Mr Eric Amponsah Amoaful representing the Ghana Library Association,
4. Mr Edward Yaw Udzu, representing the Ghana Publishers Association,
5. Hajia Hafsatu M. Salisu representing the Complementary Education Agency (formerly Non-Formal Education Division),
6. Mr Anthony Obeng Afrane, representing the Ghana Association of Writers,
7. Mrs Joyce Asamoah-Koranteng representing the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration,
8. Mrs Betty Osafo Mensah of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, and
9. Ms Lydia Oppong Gyimah of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.
Chaired by Ernesticia, the committee set to work, meeting regularly over a seven-week period from 9th March 2021 to 14th April 2021 to complete the bid. Through vigorous brainstorming sessions and extensive consultations with other external stakeholders and interest groups, the committee put together the bid and its accompanying documentation. The committee often worked from morning till deep into the night, ensuring that the application was well-thought through, and the necessary details and information met. Each member of the committee had specific roles and together the bid was completed in time for submission to UNESCO. At about 9 p.m. GMT on 15th April 2021, Ernesticia, surrounded by the indefatigable GBDC team, submitted the bid to UNESCO, just about an hour to the deadline. By this time, every member of the team was very confident that this was the winning bid. No stone had been left unturned.
Under the theme ‘Reading to connect minds for social transformation’ the programmes planned for the title year will focus on particularly the youth and vulnerable groups in Accra (and Ghana at large) such as children, underemployed women, head-porters (kayayei) and persons living with disability, to equip them with literacy and employable skills, while promoting the rich Ghanaian cultural heritage and the book industry in Ghana.
Six major projects, each with a different focus, will be undertaken during the title year, ie, 23rd April 2023 to 22nd April 2024, to realize the objectives of the title. These projects are:
Project 1: Reading Promotion – transforming minds and promoting life-long learning through books. This project will be realised through a series of reading promotion activities in Accra and Ghana.
Project 2: Reading promotion – provision of school and community reading infrastructure. The project will entail provision of assorted reading books and infrastructure to promote reading, including a reading and writing village in Accra.
Project 3: Book Industry Development – promoting the Florence Agreement, and the publication and use of books in Ghanaian languages. This project will implement policies to advance the Florence Agreement and promote the publication and use of books in Ghanaian languages, as part of developing the book industry.
Project 4: Promoting creative skills to address unemployment, substance abuse, truancy, and teenage pregnancy among the youth. The project will equip the target groups with creative and employable skills for socio-economic transformation.
Project 5: Promoting fundamental human rights, and access to information and books. This project will advance the right and access to information and encourage publishing for social transformation.
Project 6: Promotion of Arts and Culture – Showcasing and preserving Ghanaian arts and culture, and promoting inclusivity. This project will focus on advancing Ghanaian arts and culture and promote inclusivity.
Each of these projects entails many activities to be held in collaboration with the AMA and various stakeholders, both public and private bodies.
The slogan for the title year is ‘akwaaba, book a book’, which is meant to welcome the rest of Ghana and the world to Accra, and to join Accra in reading.
Many exciting programmes surrounding books, reading, publishing and skills development will be organized in Accra and throughout the country during the title year.
The advocacy started prior to, and after the submission of the bid to UNESCO. Many distinguished personalities including Dr. Yaw Osei Adutwum, the Hon. Minister of Education, the then Chief Executive Officer of the AMA and Mayor of Accra, Mr Mohammed Adjei Sowah and other bodies such as the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO, African Publishers Network (APNET), Ghana Library Association, Ghana Publishers Association and the Ghana Association of Writers publicly declared their support for Accra’s bid and rallied national and international support for the bid. Many media organizations also carried the news and helped publicize the Accra bid. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration was very instrumental in rallying international support, including from the African Continent, for the Accra bid..
The Secretariat of the Accra World Book Capital, 2023 will be hosted by the GBDC and together with the AMA and the other members of the Management Team, the numerous activities outlined for the title year will be executed to realize the objectives. The journey to the Accra World Book Capital, 2023 has just only begun. Welcome to Accra and Ghana! Welcome onboard!
# ‘akwaaba, book a book’.