Yemeni publisher wins International Young Publishing Entrepreneur award [Archives:2008/1151/Last Page]

May 1 2008

By: Almigdad Mojalli
[email protected]

At a ceremony in London last week, Yemeni finalist Nashwan Al-Maghafi was named the winner of this year's International Young Publishing Entrepreneur award.

The award comes under the International Young Creative Entrepreneur awards scheme devised by the British Council to celebrate the achievements and develop the potential of young creative entrepreneurs worldwide in various creative sectors and industries.

A panel of five judges chaired by John Makinson, chairman of Penguin Group, chose the winner from a shortlist of finalists, among whom were young publishers representing small- to medium-sized publishing firms from Argentina, Egypt, India, Lebanon, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

The finalists gathered in the U.K. for a two-week tour during which they were introduced to fellow entrepreneurs and publishing initiatives in an effort to give them an overview of Britain's creative sector.

The award ceremony was held during the London Book Fair, at which the Arab World was this year's guest of honor.

“Starting from scratch at age 19, Al-Maghafi built a formidable business within a truly challenging market. We all were inspired by the skill with which Nashwan learned and applied the highest international standards in a country without a developed book publishing culture. Bright and ambitious, Nashwan is a real entrepreneur,” Makinson said.

Al-Maghafi was awarded prizes, including significant funding for new publishing initiatives and a free display area at the 2009 London Book Fair. The award was presented by Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a longstanding supporter of the awards program.

The award ceremony was attended by both British and international publishing figures, in addition to several ambassadors and cultural attaches from the finalists' participating countries, including Yemeni Ambassador Mohammed Taha Mustafa and Dr. Fares Al-Saqqaf, chairman of Yemen General Book Authority.

Al-Maghafi established the Yemen Bookshop in 1995 when he was just 19, aspiring to provide books of world-class standards to Yemeni students at all levels in their education system. The company now is the sole agent and distributor for several international publishers around the country.

“Since I opened my first bookshop, I wanted to introduce the English language to the people of Yemen, but I didn't expect there to be so much interest in English books of all subjects. This award is such a recognition for all that hard work,” Al-Maghafi said.

He added, “I've had an amazing two weeks in the U.K. on the IYPE program and have met so many individuals from the U.K. publishing industry. I look forward to sharing all that I've learned with my friends and colleagues back in Yemen.”

Al-Maghafi noted that it was the first time he has participated in the competition. “This competition is annual and has run for four years, so from my very first participation, I won the prize!” he remarked.

He further indicated that the Yemen Bookshop is in need of marketing and distribution abroad. He intends to translate many Yemeni works into English and then distribute and market them abroad.

“I'll participate in next year's London Book Fair in the name of Yemen and the Yemen Bookshop. We'll display the creations of Yemeni people to the world because in this way, we spread Yemeni culture,” Al-Maghafi noted.

British Council Director in Yemen Elizabeth White commented, “I congratulate Nashwan Al-Maghafi! While I'm very pleased at this good news, I'm not surprised because I've been in Yemen long enough to know that this country has so much potential in its young people. All they need is the right opportunity for them to showcase their talents and creativity – opportunities like this award.”

She continued, “I hope this is only the beginning. The British Council has other awards that are open to young creative entrepreneurs from various creative sectors. Nashwan Al-Maghafi has shown the world what Yemen has to offer, so I hope we can look forward to further successes.”

In a partnership between the British Council and the London Book Fair, the International Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year award was launched five years ago to champion and celebrate entrepreneurial leadership in young people between ages 25 and 35 who are looking to develop the publishing sector in emerging economies.