University of Botswana, Botswana
|Publishing efforts in Sub-Saharan African countries have been aimed at reducing illiteracy, improving the content of educational materials and enhancing the self-image of the region. In the face of countless problems facing the industry there has been significant growth during the last two decades. Among others, the article focuses on the strides made through the establishment of national book development councils, the institution of book fairs, national publishers associations, the Noma Award, and the roles played by the African Books Collective and the African Publishing Network. Acknowledges activities of international organizations like the Bellagio Publishing Network, Unesco, and the Book Aid International that support these efforts. Reviews the publishing industry in English-speaking Sub Saharan Africa over the last two decades and raises concern over the role of multinationals in the local book industry. Recommends that the great gains made so far need to be sustained and taken further through the establishment of national book policies.|
It has traditionally been assumed that a publishing industry would somehow emerge to meet the needs of modern societies. Therefore the publishing of books and other printed materials has never received the attention that it deserves from development specialists, governments, or the research community. Government neglect of the industry continues to be a significant reason for the very slow progress of its development in Africa. Support for the infrastructure is generally negligible and very little is given in terms of incentives such as tax concessions, book studies and subsidies. (Faye, 1998). Most developing countries have not conceived a clear policy regarding the development of a publishing industry, and in many cases government policies have actually hindered the creation of a viable publishing community.
Books and publishing are not equally distributed throughout the world. A small number of countries led by the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, France and Germany--dominate world publishing. These have the major multinational publishers, constitute the main international centres of publishing and have considerable influence beyond their borders. With the exception of China, India, Egypt, Mexico, and Argentina, much of the developing world is peripheral to the publishing industry. Africa imports close to 70% of its book needs and exports less than 5% of its total output. Yet publishers on the continent continue to operate in suppressive environments characterized by poor infrastructure, low literacy levels and poor reading habits. Constraining educational systems that do not encourage publishing in certain areas, monopoly by the state publishers or multinationals, and high book production and distribution costs are prevalent. (Makotsi, 1998:1). There is a dearth of expertise and lack of an appropriate forum to voice concerns, share experiences and learn from more successful enterprises all over the world.
Publishing, however, is a strategic industry in the development of the African continent. Without books, active literacy is near impossible. Illiteracy blocks education and lack of education stands in the way of development. Zell & Lomer (1996:1) assert that:
The review is mainly on the publishing industry in English-speaking Sub Saharan Africa over the last two decades. The industry is here taken to mean the coordination of the various managerial, financial and technical processes needed to bring a book from the idea of an author to a printed product. The concern here is the selection and editing of manuscript, the planning and supervision of the process of transforming the manuscript into a book, and ensuring this product reaches its intended market.
|Current state of the industry|
Within the last 15 years, African publishing industry can be said to have registered over 500% growth, judging by the increase in the number of book publishers on the scene. Whilst in 1983 Africa was recorded to have 818 publishers both commercial and institutional, the current figure could easily be within the range of 4000, of which 50% are commercial publishers (Makotsi, 1998:1). Faye (1998) observed that:
As the result of new thinking on how to develop indigenous publishing and the need for new approaches to tackle the many problems facing African book industries, there is substantial increase in research and publications on African publishing. The 1984 volume of Zell and Lomer's bibliography on African publishing listed a total of 658 references compared to the current volume (1996) listing over 2,200 citations. Developments that have contributed significantly to autonomous publishing in Africa are the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa; the first Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) held in 1983; and the launching in 1989, of the Oxford-based African Books Collective (ABC). Others are the establishment of the Bellagio Publishing Network and the African Publishing Network (APNET) respectively in 1991 and 1992; and the publication of the African Publishing Review (APR) , the Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter (BPNN) , alongside the quarterly African Book Publishing Record (ABPR). These developments also mark growth in the industry.
|Continental Publishing Associations|
Self-help in the industry has come through the founding of the Africa Publishing Network in 1992. APNET has the vision of transforming African peoples through access to books and the mission to strengthen African publishers and national publishers associations through networking, training and trade promotion. Its mission is being fulfilled as it has created an awakening to the obstacles that impeded publishing in Sub Sahara Africa. APNET has also encouraged research and documentation and the formation of national book development agencies. It brings together national publishers associations from 27 African countries.
Established in 1990, ABC is owned and governed by forty-one autonomous indigenous African publishers. It represents a major break-through in the marketing and distribution of African published books to Western Europe and America. Following discussions between the British Council and ABC about the role of the former in the publishing and book industries in Africa, the British Council, in a new departure, sponsored African book exhibits in 1997 and 1998 in Kampala, London and Nairobi. ABC's view was co-operation to ensure that British Council programmes in Africa should work in support of local capacity building.
|National Publishers Associations|
National publishing bodies or similar associations have been founded in many African countries. The strength and achievements of such organizations may be seen in Kenya where the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA) fought and won recognition and the issue of a national book policy. Earlier attempts to have a dialogue with the Ministry of Education were futile until the 'December 1993 tripartite meeting between the World Bank, the Ministry and KPA.' (Muita, 1998).
In Guinea, the creation in May 1998 of a national professional network comprising all partners in the book chain was very significant. The association members include publishers, bookshops, printers, cultural NGOs, the service supporting public reading, and the writers' association. Like all others, the Guinean association's strategic objectives are to:
Apart from coordinating national publishing efforts in individual countries these national associations act as the contact point for APNET activities on the continent. Products of African publishing are made visible through national books-in-print published by these associations.
|National Book Fairs|
Book fairs are among the trade promotion functions of APNET as they offer an ideal forum to discuss specific issues that promote intra-African trade. Book fairs have been held in Africa probably since the mid-1970s with the Ife Book Fair of 1973 as the first in Nigeria and that of Ghana held in 1977 (Amuso, 1985; Adhozo, 1978). The first Nairobi book fair may have been in 1989 (Anon, 1989). Over the past decade there has been growth in the number of countries promoting their books and other publishing activities through book fairs. Prominent among the fairs is the Zimbabwe International Book Fair held for the first time in 1983. The annual ZIBF is now the crossroads for all parts of the African book communities and has grown by 20-30% annually during the 1990s (Zell & Lomer, 1996:1). In 1998 it attracted over 350 exhibitors from 52 countries. Running parallel to the book exhibitions are seminars and training workshops on all aspects of the book industry. For example, the Southern African Book Development Educational Trust organized a training workshop on the publication of scholarly research for African graduate students at the 1999 Zimbabwe Book Fair.
|National Book Development Councils|
The book industry in any country is a large complex of many partners - authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians-who must work together as a team. With such a wide range of professions there is need for coordination by a central agency such as a National Book Development Council. Stimulating and coordinating the publication and use of books in such a manner that they become effective tools of national development, this agency ensures that book promotion plans are integrated with the overall national development planning. Book development agencies have gained firm ground and wide acceptance in Asia hence the regional meeting of African book development experts convened by Unesco in Accra in 1968 recommended the setting up of similar bodies in Africa. However the idea has been slow to catch on in Africa, with only a few including Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe having much success.
|Resources for Training and Research|
Research into African publishing has increased, as there is the infrastructure on the continent and outside it. Zell & Lomer (1996) reported 7 post graduate degrees in African publishing between 1975 and 1991, with Nigeria producing 4; with Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe sharing one each. The Independent Publishers' Association of South Africa (IPASA) established the Publishing Training Project (PTP) in mid 1994 to provide work-related training to publishers and NGOs. By the end of 1997, more than 1200 trainees had attended some 22 different short courses mounted in various centres in South Africa. The Project mounted a Training of Trainers Workshop in South Africa in April 1998 in collaboration with APNET. In August, in partnership with the British Council, the PTP ran a copy-editing course during the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF). (Ralphs, 1998).
APNET 's African Publishing Institute has two offices- one in Nairobi, Kenya for Anglophone Africa; and the other in Lome, Togo for Francophone Africa. The newly established resource centre of APNET in Harare is to complement the training efforts of APNET by providing the needed research materials on African publishing. Zell and Lomer (1996) have donated the majority of the material in their bibliography on publishing and book development to the Centre with the view to making it widely accessible for research and teaching. The introduction of publishing studies at the undergraduate level by the UST in Ghana, University of Buea in Cameroon, and Moi University in Kenya for example, adds to the resources available for training book personnel.
Three newsletters cover essential literature on indigenous African publishing. The African Book Publishing Record was founded in 1975 while the African Publishing Review (of APNET) and the Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter were both founded in 1992. They provide detailed bibliographic coverage of African-published material, include extensive book review sections, magazine and journal review, as well as articles, reports and interviews which relate to publishing and book development in Africa. Also published are full-length articles on the publishing scene in most African countries. The Bellagio Newsletter is dedicated to the promotion of books and publishing in Africa, as well as the Third World.
The Oxford Centre for Publishing Studies and the Oxford Brookes University Library in 1998 announced the establishment of a special collection on Publishing in Africa. The collection is a donation of an extensive range of books, reports, booklets and other material by the aid organization, CODE/Europe with generous funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Heinemann Publishers. It includes donations of books by the Bellagio Group and the International African Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. (Anon, 1998). Through the Publishers' Resource Pack project, BAI has supplied training and reference books to publishers, national publishers' associations and other organisations producing and disseminating written materials throughout Africa.
The amount of information on the Internet pertaining to African publishing is incredible. All the three newsletters--ABPR, APR and BPNN-- are available online. And so are the APNET, BAI (Book Aid International), ABC, and Bellagio. Another helpful site is the African Journals Online a pilot project of the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP). It is a new service which promotes the awareness and use of African-published journals in science and technology by using the Internet to publish current contents, backed up with a document delivery service, as well as full text for a number of articles. Hans Zell Publishing Consultants 'Starter's Pack' on African publishing covers major bibliographic and address sources, the most important journals, newsletters and monographic series which focus on publishing and book development in Africa (Hans Zell, 1998).
Two useful monograph series devoted to African publishing are Bellagio Studies in Publishing from the Bellagio Publishing Network and Perspectives on African Book Development published by the Association for Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). They both have published nine titles to date. Another valuable source is the Development Directory of Indigenous Publishing published in 1995 by APNET. It carries essays on various aspects of indigenous publishing, profiles on the state of publishing in specific regions, an inventory of African development organizations, as well as an annotated listing of international organizations promoting local publishing. The International Book Publishing Encyclopedia also has many sections pertinent to African publishing.
African publishing has been a beneficiary of many donors, among them BAI, Noma Award, Bellagio Group, World Bank, Obor and Dag Hammarskjold Foundations, Unesco, INASP and ADEA. In 1997 Book Aid International (BAI) raised over $1 million to continue and expand, over three years, its two existing publishing support activities--the Intra African Book Support Scheme (IABSS) and the Publishers' Resource Pack (PRP) project established in 1992. Since then around $290,000 worth of books has been purchased through the IABSS, run in partnership with ABC, and distributed to university and public libraries all over Africa. (Nicholson, 1998). The Rockefeller Foundation, the Nippon Foundation, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Unwin Charitable Trust and the European Commission support this aim through the provision of funds.
Working closely with APNET and national publishers' associations, the Partners in African Publishing Programme (under BAI since 1998) maintains the information services it provides for the African book development community. BAI has also assumed responsibility for the Tanzania Resource Centre Project, previously run by CODE/Europe. APNET works closely with ADEA, which in turn participates in the Bellagio Publishing Network. The series Perspectives on African Book Development is published through ADEA's Working Group on Learning Materials, which in 1996, organised workshops, and case studies on cost-effectiveness of publishing educational materials.
The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa owes its establishment to the late Shoichi Noma, former President of the Japanese publishing house Kodansha Ltd. The first award was presented in 1980 and has since become perhaps the most prestigious book prize on the African continent. The prize includes a cheque for US$10,000. (Jay, 1998; Zell, 1992). A new prize for African writers was launched in the United Kingdom on 14 June 1999. Called the Caine Prize, it is named in celebration of the late Sir Michael Caine, former chairman of Booker Plc, who was chairman of 'Africa 95' arts festival in Europe. The first prize of US$15,000 will be awarded in June 2000 from a shortlist of works published in the last 24 months.
As part of the development agenda the Bellagio Group was established in 1991 out of an international conference on publishing in developing countries. The group is an informal association of donors and other organizations dedicated to the strengthening of indigenous publishing in Africa and elsewhere. The book Publishing and Development in the Third World was also a product of the conference. The group publishes the quarterly Bellagio Publishing Network Newsletter and has a Research & Information Centre that provides and sponsors research related to book development and publishing. The Obor Foundation has made significant books available to the reading public in South and Southeast Asia through reprints and translations. Its assistance is a small loan programme which saves the publisher from having to venture limited capital, particularly on titles they are not sure of. Obor pays all editorial costs, clears copyright, and may pay some manufacturing costs. (Altbach, 1992)
In African publishing, Unesco is noted for contributions towards the establishment of National Book Development Councils in many countries, some of which have successfully organized book fairs, run training programmes, and sponsored book prizes. Unesco sponsored the 'moribund' Regional Book Centre for Africa with headquarters in Yaounde, Cameroon; and has sponsored, organized or co-organized training programmes for African publishers. Yet another contribution comes by way of improving the content of science materials through the Science for Africa/Kawi project for schools. (Wade, 1998). The project is being implemented in conjunction with APNET.
Also at the forefront of assisting local publishing efforts in Africa is the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation who organized three major seminars on the development of autonomous publishing in 1984, 1989 and 1996; and co-sponsored several others including the Arusha African Writers-Publishers seminar of 1998. The Foundation is noted for its loan-guaranteed scheme started in Kenya since 1989.
|The question of multinationals|
Before World War II book publishing companies were small, nationally based and mostly personally owned. The revolution in information technology believed in the 1960s to be a threat to the survival of the book and other forms of the printed word was among the factors that changed this situation. This led to a wave of mergers, especially in the United States, as large electronic corporations such as ITT, Xerox, and CBS scrambled to acquire book publishing houses which owned the databanks as well as knowledge of the markets. In Europe this process of mergers and acquisitions took place in the 1970s and by the 1980s, the process of concentration on both side of the Atlantic had been accelerated by numerous corporate marriages between publishing and the film and video industry. Beginning from 1990 more than half of all book publishing in Europe and North America was controlled by companies that were large, public owned and, international. Today, fewer than twenty large publishing corporations dominate the industry worldwide These multinationals own companies with divisions that operate in two or more countries and prefer to call themselves communications or information corporations since their activities cover radio, television, newspapers, magazines as well as books and journals.
Led by US College textbook publishers like McGraw-Hill, Prentice Hall and Addison Wesley these multinationals discovered export markets in the 1950s and started establishing distribution branches in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa. Leading British houses that joined this export market were Collins, Macmillan, Longman, Oxford University Press and Butterworths. By the 1960s they had started publishing locally in these overseas markets. The one situation in which multinationals are bitterly resented is when they move into countries where the local publishing industry is struggling for viability. The multinationals are then accused of stifling the development of a genuinely national literature. This concern is captured thus:
In South Africa the small local publishers that sustained independent publishing during the apartheid years have had problems competing with the multinationals, and many have either been bought by the multinationals or have gone out of business. Rupert Murdoch made a business decision not to publish a book in Britain that would arouse the ire of China. If such decisions can be made in Britain, political interference in smaller and weaker markets, such as Africa, would cause Murdoch no worry. The opening of a Borders megastore in Singapore is another example of the role of multinationals in the book trade. Singapore, despite high per capita income and universal literacy, has not been well served by bookstores. Borders was an immediate success, and will very likely change the face of Singapore bookselling. (Altbach & Teferra, 1998). Makotsi's study on African book trade potentials and problems, reported that where book imports are financed by external donors such as the World Bank, procurement preferences are often awarded to multinational companies whose titles are tailored to the needs and interests of their home countries. These examples tell us that book industries in Africa, as well as in other parts of the developing world, must constantly be aware of international trends.
On a positive note, however, multinationals also bring access to capital, easy distribution channels to other countries, and economies of scale into the equation. They have contributed to educational publishing and in some cases to the training of local staff.
|Discussion and the case for national book policies|
Faye (1998) assigns various reasons to the progress made in African publishing. Among them the creativity of African publishers; increase in state purchase of books for schools and libraries; support to both publishing and book acquisition by development agencies. He is quick to add that there remain difficulties. The litany of problems facing the publishing industry in Africa is not peculiar to Africa. Success case histories exist in Asian and Latin American countries which had to start their publishing from scratch. It is to be seen whether Africa will exploit the many opportunities presented by illiteracy, book scarcity, suppressive environments, poor reading habits, etc. In this wise, progress should be made within the international context of publishing which is dominated by multinationals, technology driven, and sustainable with less dependence on donor funding.
Although fairly insignificant in economic terms, publishing is of central importance to the cultural, intellectual and educational life of a nation and the development and dissemination of knowledge products is a matter of the utmost importance for any civilization. It is also a central element in the emerging nexus of knowledge industries that are so important to postindustrial societies. It is not surprising that the international regulation of knowledge industries was an important and controversial part of the recently concluded trade negotiations of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Issues relating to the piracy of knowledge products, including books, were at the heart of a highly visible trade dispute between China and the United States (Altbach, 1998:3). Copyright, for example, emerged in the seventeenth-century England as a means of protecting authors and publishers of books. The concept has broadened to include other knowledge products, including computer programs, films, and others. It has remained evasive in the face of current new technologies, especially the Internet, and emerged as one of the most important means of regulating the international flow of ideas and knowledge-based products.
The creation and ownership of knowledge products are of increasing importance because of the centrality of information and knowledge to postindustrial economies. Books remain an important element of knowledge creation and ownership. Yet the publishing industry is characterized by considerable inequalities with much of the world and Africa being peripheral to the major centres of publishing found in Europe and North America. With the exception of Egypt, South Africa, and to a lesser extent Nigeria and Kenya, African nations produce few books, and their publishing industries are largely limited to textbooks for schools.
The impact of new technologies--reprography and computing--is very huge. The costs of photocopying machines and of making copies have declined steadily since the 1970s. Reprographic technology has been harnessed for printing resulting in significant economies in printing costs, especially for limited print-run. Recent reprographic advances, linked to computer composition, permit greater economies in the production of printed materials. Presses based on advanced photocopy technology can economically print small numbers of books very quickly and inexpensively. Using reprographic technology for printing has been a considerable advantage to publishers, and has permitted publishing to be done on a small scale. This has assisted publishers in countries and regions, and in languages, that have only small markets.
Of greater importance is the revolution based on the computer. Traditional composition techniques have been replaced by computer-based composition and book design. This has revolutionized the physical design of books and led to the development of desktop publishing, a term that refers to the creation of composed text through the use of personal computers. Computerized book design and preparation have dramatically lowered the cost of composition, and also decentralized it. The computer has also changed business procedures relating to inventory control, billing, and tracing trends in the sale of specific titles. This application of computer technology has also enabled small publishers to operate efficiently in ways that could only be done by larger firms through economies of scale. Computer technology has also permitted the effective use of targeted mailing lists, specialized publicity campaigns, etc. These innovations may, however, have negative implications for those without access to the new technologies or without the resources to produce expensive multimedia products.
Donor support and the role of multinationals present peculiar problems to a nascent local industry. The intentions of multinationals have always been in doubt as was the case in the Macmillan/Longman joint proposal for publishing development in Tanzania (Bgoya,1992). Bgoya analysed the proposal in detail and said it cannot be called anything but monopolistic. Issues of contention centre on content of books, exploitative tendencies (for example, using the book hunger in Africa to combine aid programmes with getting rid of old stock), lack of training and investment in local industry (of personnel, especially young writers). Most, if not all of these, stifle the growth of local publishing. Donor funding must be seen as a stopgap-measure and not a solution to the problems of publishing. Smith(1998:45) identifies funding as the single most important factor in the growth of the industry. `Undercapitalization is perhaps the most serious single obstacle to book publishing development in the developing countries'. This is not merely because lack of capital forces the publisher to print small quantities at high prices, but because it prevents all the other long-range efforts at building for the future of both the publisher and the society as a whole. Because book publishing is so small an industry compared to agriculture, armament-manufacturing and port facilities, national planners rarely consider the publisher's need for credit.
The view of prominent publishing scholars is that African governments can do a lot to sustain and develop the gains made on the continent over the past two or three decades. A national book policy as a plan or course of action directed at a sound approach towards the development of books and the promotion of a healthy national book industry is all that is required. (Altbach &Teferra, 1998; Momoh, 1997; Zell, 1992; Read, 1992; Faye, 1998). Countries like Australia, Canada, and India have built substantial publishing industries from scratch. At various stages in the development of Australian publishing, for example, printing was subsidized and there were tariff barriers against imported books. (Graham, 1992). In the view of Altbach (1996) 'private publishing operates in the context of governmental policy.' This is true in any country, but it is even more important in Africa where circumstances must be favourable for the success of any new enterprise because of the difficult economic climate. A national book policy is only a first step, but it is vital as a way to get on track and advance the development process of the main parts of the book chain. It provides the basis for the development of a self-sustaining indigenous book industry and sets the scene for awareness about a country's book industry.
|Conclusion and recommendations|
The paper looks at the strides made by African publishers over the last two decades in the face of a catalogue of problems. African self-help efforts, with support from donor agencies, are seen to be responsible for the growth of the local publishing industry. Facilities for training and research have improved and the formation of APNET has greatly contributed to an awakening to the obstacles that impeded publishing in Sub Sahara Africa. The pre-eminent place of the ZIBF is healthy for indigenous African industry. Jointly APNET, ABC and national publishers associations stand out as the collective voice of the industry on the continent and worldwide. The strength found in the collective wisdom of the three defies the many and varied distractions and problems encountered in the industry. The story of publishing in Sub-Sahara Africa is not complete without the names of accomplished local publishers such as Henry Chakava of Kenya; Walter Bgoya of Tanzania; Victor Nwanko of Nigeria; Paul Brickhill founding Executive Secretary of APNET; Richard Crabbe of Ghana; and many more. They have in no uncertain terms propped up APNET and the national publishers associations. The challenges for African governments are not outside their capabilities: in terms of legislation, financial and moral commitment.
Finally, the book industry is the bedrock in the promotion of literacy and education in African countries, and the book itself is central to education and development. Quoting Altbach, "The responsibility is considerable, the challenges are substantial, but the endeavour is worthwhile since publishing is at the centre of the intellectual and educational development of the Third World" (Altbach, 1992:23)
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K.O. Darko-Ampem holds a Master of Information Science from the University of Ibadan, a Graduate Diploma (Library Studies) from from the University of Ghana and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Cape Coast. He is currently a Senior Assistant Librarian at the University of Botswana, Gaborone. Recent Conference papers include: "Park-libraries for Gaborone (Botswana)" Contribution to the symposium on Focus on youth: information and reading needs of children and youth for the 21st century. July 14, 1999. University of Cape Town, South Africa; and "The Subject Librarian and professional development : a review article." Workshop on Subject Librarianship, 27-29 July 1999. Gaborone, Department of Library Services, University of Botswana.
|Paper presented at the African Studies Association of Australasia & the Pacific 22nd Annual & International Conference (Perth, 1999)|
New African Perspectives: Africa, Australasia, & the Wider World at the end of the twentieth century