- Title: Guinea's capital Conakry uses World Book Capital title to boost literacy.
- Date: 26th July 2017
- Summary: PICTURE OF BOY READING BOOK
- Embargoed: 9th August 2017 16:22
- Keywords: Books Literature World Book Capital Literacy UNESCO
- Location: CONAKRY, GUINEA
- City: CONAKRY, GUINEA
- Country: Guernsey
- Topics: Books,Arts / Culture / Entertainment
- Reuters ID: LVA0026RCT653
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Guinea's capital Conakry was recently named the World Book capital for 2017, a title awarded annually to competing cities by an international committee of experts in the book industry.
Initiated by the U.N. cultural heritage organization UNESCO, the program aims to promote reading and instil a lifelong appreciation for the written word.
According to UNESCO, Guinea has made strong investment in promoting books and literacy.
The city earmarked a number of activities that will nurture a reading culture amongst its population especially its young people.
An event bringing together writers and other stakeholders was recently held in Conakry, where visitors, keen to discover the latest books, mingled and interacted with their favorite authors.
"I think that today people from all over the world now know where Conakry is, many of whom could not point the city on a map, and that's a win for us. I hope that that we can draw valuable lessons from this experience, look at when things were right and what went wrong and make sure that we can improve in future," said Guinean writer, Thierno Monenembo.
Conakry is the 17th city to be chosen since 2001, and was singled out by UNESCO due to the quality and the diversity of its programmes, especially those targeted to the youth.
Organisers hosted workshops, lectures, book presentations, distribution of books and other literature related activities throughout the city's neighbourhoods.
"The public came out in great numbers, they bought a lot of books and as you see the shelves are practically empty. The books sold like hot cakes so to speak. The type of people who came to buy the books are not the type who will lend the book to so and so, but rather a person who came to buy is someone who will buy a book and talk about it to his friends, then let them know where to buy it," said Lamine Camara, president of Guinea's writers association.
Despite having produced some of Africa's literature heavy weights like Thierno Monenembo, Camara Laye and William Sassine, amongst others, Guinea, like many African countries has a modest reading culture, in part because people have little interest in books and spend most of their time watching television. Poor access to books, illiteracy or prohibitive costs also discourage reading.
Books in Africa are often too expensive. Here in Conakry, book sellers and consumers say taxes charged on books push prices up.
Having the World Book Capital title has also encouraged Conakry's street booksellers association to allow more people to access books.
Many of the sellers offer second-hand stock sold in small stalls located throughout the capital.
"Not everyone here in Guinea likes reading. There are people who would rather buy a phone than a book. But for us, as members of the second hand books association, we took this opportunity to set up book stalls throughout the city. We managed to set up 120 book stalls selling books," said Bah Elh Boubacar Kaabib, a member of Guinea's second-hand book sellers association.
Despite increased efforts residents say more needs to be done to promote reading and make books easily available to the public.
"People need to be sensitised and encouraged to read more. People need to be especially sensitised when it comes to the cost of books. When someone has 5,000 CFA (8 USD) in their pocket they will use it for their transport, and not to buy books. Libraries should also be giving books to students. But buying books remains a problem. If you want people to read, then the cost of books needs to come down," said Conakry resident Fanta Sylla.
In Guinea, the adult literacy rate in 2010 was at an average of 41 percent for both boys and girls.
Guinea is the third country to take part in the World Book Capital, after Alexandria in 2002 and Port Harcourt in Nigeria in 2014.
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