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Education Worldwide

Golden Baobab Promotes African Children's Literature


According to a paper published in 2000, Africa imports roughly 70 percent of its book needs. Elliot Agyare, former president of the Ghana Books Publishers Associations thinks it might even be up to 80 percent.

It can be argued that these books – most of them coming from Western countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany – do not reflect local African languages, culture and storytelling. This is also true for children's books. For instance, most American children's stories deal with American's children's experiences and issues and are written by American's authors.

Africa, of course, has a strong tradition in oral storytelling. However, with high illiteracy rates especially in sub-Saharan African countries, there seems to be a clear need for African children and youth to have access to books and stories in print that reflect their own world and environments.

During her studies in the United States, Ghanaian Deborah Ahenkorah founded a club to collect books in America and shipped them back home to local libraries in Africa. She realized in one of her blog entries:

"Late one night, as I was boxing the donations, I found one book with a picture of a little black girl on the cover. It dawned on me that of the over 8,000 books I had boxed and shipped, this was the first I had seen with a protagonist that resembled the children these books were going to. It was in that moment that I decided that I wanted to take my work a step further. I wanted children across the vast African continent to have books that reflected their realities and inspired their imaginations."

In this moment, the Golden Baobab project was born. In 2008, Deborah Ahenkorah set up a prize, the Golden Baobab, awarded for excellence in children's writing suited for African children. It invites submissions of unpublished stories and books in three categories, the Children's Picture Book, the Children's Chapter Book and the Rising Writer. Authors must be a citizen of an African state. Winners receive 1,000 USD and will be published with South African's Jacana Media.

By now, Golden Baobab has evolved into a not-for-profit social enterprise employing a little staff in Accra, Ghana. This staff does not only take care of running the yearly competition, it also organizes workshops and training programs for writers and illustrators of children's books. Workshop participants can enhance their professional skills and widen their network among those dedicated to children's books publishing. Additionally, Golden Baobab also serves as a literacy agent connecting African authors with the publishing industry.

Golden Baobab organizes free workshopsworks with IBBY Ghana. Organizations such as Reach for Change, African Library Project, The Global Fund for Children as well as Echoing Green support the Golden Baobab initiative.

Learn more about Deborah Ahenkorah and the Golden Baobab in an interview with a Ghanaian TV show:

Image and video with courtesy of Golden Baobab.