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Thursday September 5, 2019


Culture Minister leads call to embrace the digital opportunity at the Ghana International Book Fair

"Internet based for the limitless distribution of books"

The 17th Ghana International Book Fair (GIBF) has not long wound up, and by all accounts it was a vibrant and rewarding event, not withstanding a dark cloud emerging over publishers holding unwanted school textbooks (see item further down in this newsletter).

With the theme “Reaching the World Market through Effective Book Distribution Networks” it was inevitable the question of the digital opportunity would be a central topic, but few could have anticipated the call to take digital seriously would come from none other than the Ghanaian Minister for Tourism, Culture & Creative Art, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi.

Oteng-Gyasi said,

In this publishing climate, culture was always unfortunately subsumed to business.

We have a publishing industry in Ghana that has about 85 per cent concentration on the textbook market.

It is sometimes very frustrating and worrying to move round bookshops for books on our heritage and culture and would not find much.

The Ghana News Agency, quoting from a prepared speech issued by the Minister, reports:

Mrs Oteng-Gyasi noted that it was understandable that publishing was a business, with profit maximisation being the driving force, however publishers owed mother Ghana a duty to bequeath to the unborn generation a well-documented history and culture.

With regards to the theme of the Fair, the Minister advised industry players to invest more into publishing contents with no territorial boundaries.

She said internet based approaches such as metadata, websites and Facebook were other effective tools for limitless distribution of books.

“There is a huge demand for our rich folklore, traditions, culture and heritage globally,” she said.

“Moreover, Ghana as a nation could benefit immensely from the publishing industry going global through the sale of our rich culture to the world.”

Read more over at GNA.

Just how much heed Ghanaian publishers will pay to the wise words of their Minister remains to be seen, but hopefully the speech will have set wheels in motion and perhaps we will in the next decade see the Ghana publishing industry rise to a place of pre-eminence on the African and global publishing stage.

But even as the GIBF stalls were being tidied away news was emerging that the 85% dependency on school textbooks, as acknowledged by the Minster’s speech, was threatening to subsume the industry into further depression.

All the more timely then that, to mark the occasion of the XVII Ghana International Book Fair StreetLib-TNPS put together a slide-deck presentation exploring the digital potential of Ghanaian publishing in the coming decade.

More on that in the penultimate item below.

Welcome to issue # 6 of Publish Africa – the digital advantage.

Nigeria’s Copyright Commission calls on schools to avoid buying pirated text books

But what's needed is enforcement of copyright laws by the authorities


The Nigerian Publishers Association and the Nigerian Copyright Commission organised a meeting at the Education Resource Centre in Abuja, calling for schools to be more careful where they bought their textbooks.

The Nigerian Copyright Commission Director General John Ohireime Asein, explaining the loss piracy caused to both publishers and authors, said,

It is an unauthorised production and distribution of books to the general public without the knowledge of the right owner. Piracy is a menace to society and needs to be tackled systematically to achieve sustainable results.

The Zonal Manager of University Press Plc, Innocent Agbaanu, said,

Looking at the budget of over N50bn ($137 million) of the publishing industry for all publishers, when you get to look at the financial capabilities of the book sellers, they don’t commit much to the business.

Agbaanu said that schools should be called upon to present their receipts and show they were not buying from illegal sources.

Part of the problem was attributed to printing costs within the country, which meant publishers looked to overseas printers to produce the final books for distribution.

Agbaanu said,

Because of the challenges we have here in Nigeria, it is cheaper for us to print outside the country due to high cost of power, high cost of labour, cost of printing materials, paper itself is on the high side.

That of course is the same for many countries, including mature markets like the US and UK, that rely on overseas printing contracts and shipments back into the country for sale.

As reported, it would seem the meeting was short on meaningful solutions to the problem, such as government and law enforcement support to track and quality-check books imported back into the country from overseas printers, and for government and law enforcement backing to demand schools prove their purchase are of legitimate books, not cheaper pirated versions.

Via Daily Trust.

This post first appeared on TNPS.

Celebrating English and Portuguese literature in Kenya 

The first Macondo Literary Festival is set for this month


Named after the fictional town in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, “a place where magical things happen,” the Macondo Literary Festival will debut in Nairobi from 27 to 29 September 2019.

The event seeks to,

promote literature and authors of and from Africa beyond linguistic borders, to initiate and encourage the engagement of a wider public with literature and its creators as a means of societal growth (and is) intended as a platform for the exploration of belonging, identity and history among Anglophone and Lusophone authors and audiences in Kenya whose societies were artificially separated through colonial demarcations, but similarly impacted by the different forces of history, more particularly colonization.

Brittle Paper reported:

For this first edition of the festival, Lusophone authors from Mozambique, Angola, GuineaBissau etc. are to be invited because in recent years, several novels by contemporary Lusophone writers got translated into English for the first time, making these writings accessible to a much wider audience. These translations reveal that their authors have been engaging with their countries’ histories for decades.

Authors from the Anglophone and Lusophone worlds of Africa will engage with each other and with the Kenyan audience in a series of panel discussions, readings, interviews, meet-the-author sessions etc on issues of (shared) histories (What unites, what separates us?) based on the authors’ works of historical (non) fiction. During these engagements, in order to insert new perspectives and actors into the societal debate around identity and the way forward for African nations, questions such as the following are discussed:

Why are African identities still intertwined with and shaped by the colonial experience? From which lenses and how are African peoples’ histories told and retold? Who are we? How did we become who we are? What is true about our history? Where are we headed in response to our past? How do we shape our future?

More details on Brittle Paper. Here to take a step back and talk briefly about the bigger picture of post-colonial African literature.

As someone in African but not born African I found this coverage and positioning refreshing.

“Societies artificially separated through colonial demarcations” is a concept we need to talk about more if we are to bring a sense of continental unity to the African literature debate.

Yet at the same time the very nature of this festival, celebrating literature in the colonial languages English and Portuguese which epitomise the artificial demarcations, but with no apparent reference to or even acknowledgement of, the myriad and beautiful indigenous languages of the region, seems itself to answer one of the questions being asked: “Why are African identities still intertwined with and shaped by the colonial experience?”

But above all, what matters is that literature of different countries and nations, no matter how their borders came about, can be enjoyed beyond those borders.

On the Macondo Festival website Mozambiquan author Mia Coutu is quoted as saying,

Separated by official languages, geography and strategic regions, our continent is unknown to itself today more than ever. In the field of literature, we know little of what our neighbors are debating and publishing. Even worse, what we know comes from Europe, through old and untouchable colonial circuits. African literary festivals can be a way to break this isolation and reciprocal ignorance.

Strong sentiments that carry conviction. Yet the suggestion “our continent is unknown to itself today more than ever” is open to question.

The tremendous progress of the internet across the continent – there are now over a half billion Africans online – means Africans, wherever they may live, have access to news, knowledge and perspectives that even ten years ago was inconceivable.

And with that internet access comes the potential to have access to literature from across the continent and around the world.

If literary festivals are a way to break the isolation and reciprocal ignorance of African countries, how much more so when they go hand in hand with the advantage digital brings.

I’ve no chance of getting to the Macondo Festival or pretty much any other literary fairs and festivals across the continent. But in the next decade we might all have the opportunity to share in these events through our smartphone connections, live as they happen.

VIMN launches Nickelodeon ebook subscription service BooKids in France

Digital in action around the world

Launching with 200 titles, and aiming to add ten new titles each month, BooKids by Nickleodeon is a new ebook subscription service from Viacom International Media Networks.

Costing US$7.60 (€6.99) per month and available on Android and iOS and also as an add-on through VIMN’s pay-TV partners, BooKids by Nickelodeon,

provides mobile subscribers with access to an exclusive digital library of kids’ books from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr.

Title series will include SpongeBob, PAW Patrol, Ninja Turtles, The Loud House, Dora the Explorer, Shimmer and Shine and Blaze and the Monster Machines, with the digital library split into two age groups (3 to 7 years old and 6 to 12 years old).

The press release notes content will be available in the following formats,

  • « AUDIO BOOKS»: children can read along while listening to the story, improving their reading abilities
  • « ILLUSTRATED BOOKS » for toddlers
  • « CHAPTER BOOKS » for grown ups
  • « ACTIVITY BOOKS » books with interactive games: drawing, coloring, puzzles

The venture is not new, just new to France. In the US a version called Nick Jr.  has been available since January 2017.

In reference to the launch in France Raffaele Annecchino, president and managing director of VIMN Southern and Western Europe, Middle East and Africa and president of digital mobile strategy for VIMN said,

We’re very excited to announce the launch of our first mobile e-book service of Nickelodeon content in France. BooKids by Nickelodeon is an innovative digital library that will give kids and families even more ways to interact with our content, now available via our e-book app on all their mobile devices.

This post first appeared on TNPS.

This latest digital books subscription service is just one more in a long line of services popping up around the globe catering to an insatiable demand for books on smartphones and tablets. Some, like Storytel and Scribd, have over one million subscribers each. Amazon's Kindle Unlimited may well be bigger still, while there are countless other, smaller but still significant players in the field, and more coming online all the time.

For African publishers digital subscription has limited value at home, but that's because, as usual, there is so little African content being digitised and made available that consumers have no incentive to look for it.

Ironically one sees, among the few African publishers that are taking digital seriously, many putting there titles into Amazon's Kindle Unlimited subscription service. Ironic because "KU", as it is affectionately known, is not available for African consumers.

Other global subscription services are accessible in Africa, and that's something we'll take a closer look at in a future edition of Publish Africa.

Will we one day see an ebook subscription service dedicated to African books and authors? My guess is yes, and sooner rather than late. Just how soon will depend on how long it takes for enough African content to be digitised by publishers willing to embrace the model.

A library on a bus – Rwanda Bookmobile Initiative is a great idea but...


...the argument against digital is flawed and unnecessary


Targetting remote primary schools, and carrying books in Kinyarwanda, French, and English, NGO Rwanda Bookmobile Initiative is a mobile library taking books to parts of the country where books are hard to come by.

There’s little to fault and much to praise in this initiative, launched last week.

Pacifique Mahirwe, Director of Rwanda Bookmobile Initiative, explained:

We will tour the country with a mobile library on a bus across schools. We will be reading for them and giving away books. The books target early primary pupils.”

The point is made that many school libraries are inaccessible and most of the books are textbooks, not noted for inspiring young children to read for pleasure.

Reporting on the mobile library Rwanda’s New Times notes,

A 2018 joint baseline survey by the United State Agency International Developments (USAID) and Save the Children- Rwanda, showed that most children do not have access to storybooks outside the school premises.

Only five percent of children have access to Kinyarwanda storybooks at home, the survey revealed, adding that only six percent have access to a library or somewhere in their community where they can read or borrow books.

The report goes on,

According to Mureke Dusome, a project by Save the Children, there are over 1,400 reading clubs equipped with 100 different storybooks each, in 18 districts that are working with nearby primary schools. Over 317,000 children have joined the reading clubs.

All of which is great for the kids, great for society and great for the country.

Yet as reported by the New Times there was an element of defensiveness about the bus library project.

Reading physical books is a more “effective and genuine” of learning than using digital platforms because it has fewer destructions, (Rwanda Bookmobile Initiative Director Pacifique) Mahirwe said, making the case for a mobile library.

Assuming that should have read “distractions”, not “destructions”, let’s end this piece by addressing the issues here.

First and foremost this should not be seen as an either/or debate. Educators should be looking to give children the best of both worlds.

The idea that reading digitally is “not genuine” is rather like saying receiving an email as opposed to a handwritten letter by post is not genuine.

It’s a different experience, and both have their pros and cons, but both are genuine and both have their place.

The distractions argument is – or rather, can be – a valid one.

Any of us who use internet-connected tablets, smartphones or laptops regularly will know it takes a lot of self-discipline to keep at a given task and not let the mind and fingers slide into something else.

And no question reading digitally is as susceptible to such distractions as any other device-based activity.

But for schools, and especially for primary and nursery education where tablets are used to deliver books or learning materials, the solution is simple.

Don’t have the devices connected during lesson time or assigned reading time, and for devices that are school property, use the parental controls effectively.

Which leads us into the next item, where we step outside Africa to the South and South East Asian countries of Myanmar and Cambodia for a lesson in using digital to boost literacy.

N.B. This post is also appearing on TNPS today.

Asia Foundation launches Let’s Read Project in Myanmar

How digital is boosting literacy around the world

Let’s Read is an initiative by the Asia Foundation to bring the joy of reading to children across Asia who otherwise do not have easy access to books.

In many parts of the world “book scarcity” is a major obstacle to social development and literacy because young children who might otherwise learn to read simply don’t have suitable books available to them.

In Myanmar it is estimated only 4% of the country’s 53 million children have books in their home.

Now the Asia Foundation, already operating in eighteen Asian countries, has partnered with the Ministry of Information, the Myanmar Library Association, and Myanmar children’s book publisher Third Story Project to,

foster publishing ecosystems and inspire reading habits that help children, families, and communities thrive.

Stories for children are written, illustrated and translated by volunteers and the products are made available free to read digitally or to print and read on paper via the Asia Foundation’s free digital library. Currently there are 24 languages available including Myanmar, Rakhine, Chin, and Kachin.

A child’s passion for reading better predicts their academic success than their family’s socioeconomic status. To experience the full benefits of reading, children need books that reflect their own lives and books that introduce them to the world. Let’s Read Myanmar is committed to building a robust library of local language books through local publishing and translation to ensure that children have books that will act as both mirrors and windows and enable them to benefit from The Book Effect.

Today, the Let’s Read Myanmar collection includes brand new stories written and illustrated by book creators in Myanmar that celebrate diversity and inclusion. The collection also includes Girl Power in Myanmar, illustrated by local artists, telling the stories of brave and influential women throughout the history of the nation. With support from the Myanmar Library Association and their volunteer networks, children can enjoy books created by Let’s Read communities across Asia translated into Myanmar language.

Let’s Read builds a world where curious and educated readers create thriving societies. We bring together the talent of local partners and the power of technology to create and translate relatable children’s books while nurturing reading habits that enable children to reach important developmental milestones, families to share stories that affirm their culture, and communities to benefit from the contributions of all their members.

Read more here.

The bigger picture here, as pertinent to Africa as to Asia, is the proliferation of mobile-phone-based free-reading sites aimed at young children that is creating the next generation of digital-first readers, many of whom will have little or no experience of the tactile pleasures of a paper and ink book, and for whom reading on screen is not a novelty or an option but simply how things have always been.

To understand the transformative power potential of digital for less-advantaged young readers, take a look at this video of the Asia Foundation’s Let’s Read Cambodia operation.

If video does not play in the newsletter, click here to go to YouTube.

Publishers investing now in future generations will reap the rewards as these little readers grow up to become the future years’ Middle Grade, YA and adult consumers.

StreetLib's online presentation for the Ghana International Book Fair

Ghana's digital publishing opportunity


The Ghana International Book Fair is not long finished, and to mark the event, TNPS and parent company StreetLib produced an updated version of our March presentation on the African digital opportunity, geared to the Ghana publishing industry.

Publish Africa is not a promotional vehicle for StreetLib services, but occasionally StreetLib news and joint StreetLib-TNPS presentations like this fall clearly within the remit of the Publish Africa  project. In such instances we present the press-release in full below without further comment.

[Press Release] Supporting the Ghana International Book Fair, StreetLib delivers an online presentation showing the digital potential for Ghana’s publishing industry

Loreto, Italy, August 31st 2019.

With the theme “Reaching the World Market through Effective Book Distribution Networks,” the 17th Ghana International Book Fair is underway in Accra.

Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi, the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Creative Art, said,

“We have a publishing industry in Ghana that has about 85 percent concentration on the textbook market.

It is sometimes very frustrating and worrying to move round bookshops for books on our heritage and culture and would not find much. (Yet) there is a huge demand for our rich folklore, traditions, culture and heritage globally.”

Mrs Oteng-Gyasi advised industry stakeholders to invest more into publishing content with no territorial boundaries, saying the internet provided effective tools for limitless distribution of books.

Meanwhile Professor Stephen Adei, the Chairman of the National Development Planning Commission delivered a keynote address saying Ghana was creating a generation of functional illiterates.

Just before the fair, Abubakar Saddique Ahmed the CEO of the Ejura-based NGO Rural Smile Foundation called the government to prioritise building more libraries across Ghana.

Welcoming the initiatives being put forward at the Ghana International Book Fair, Giacomo D’Angelo, CEO of the Italy-based digital books aggregator and publishing facilitator StreetLib, said:

“Ghana’s publishing industry has opportunities today to develop its domestic sector and build a thriving export sector that were inconceivable ten years ago when digital reading first became mainstream in the western book markets.

Today Ghana has 11.7 million people online yet is only at 39% internet penetration. That’s 2 million more than Sweden, the home of the digital books streaming service Storytel, which has 400,000 subscribers at home and globally over one million subscribers paying the company each month for access to its rich catalogue of ebooks and digital audio.

It’s a similar story around the world, where millions of booklovers use their smartphones to access books from the comfort of their homes, any time of day or night.

It’s a publishers dream — a 24/7 bookstore with unlimited shelf-space where any book can be available anywhere in Ghana, anywhere in Africa, and anywhere in the world, and that has no printing and warehousing costs.

As we end this decade Ghana is behind the curve with digital books, although some publishers and digital startups are making good progress.

At StreetLib we specialise in helping publishers big and small make the leap from a paper & ink only business model to a hybrid model that gets the benefits of both print and digital.

With no up-front costs we can help Ghanaian publishers distribute their digital books globally, help with formatting, and offer a raft of other services aimed at connecting publishers with readers around the world.

That includes digitally publishing in languages indigenous to Ghana like Akuapem Twi, Asante Twi, Ewe, etc.

Digital books can be made available to libraries across Ghana, and at StreetLib we are in the process of setting up a Pan-African Digital Library Hub to facilitate the exchange of books across the continent.

Digital presents untold possibilities and opportunities for publishers in Ghana and beyond.

For the occasion of the 17th Ghana International Book Fair StreetLib has added a slide-deck presentation to our StreetLib Ghana publishing portal showing what digital publishing is achieving around the world and what is possible in Ghana.”

Let’s make the 2020s the decade Ghanaian publishing takes its rightful place as a global publishing powerhouse.”

About StreetLib

StreetLib ( is a publishing facilitator and a global gateway to the $143 billion international book market, 70% of which is happening outside the USA, for publishers big and small. Whether you are an independent author or a multinational publisher, StreetLib offers unrivalled global reach through our worldwide network of retail, digital library and subscription service outlets. StreetLib distributes ebooks, audiobooks, comics, magazines and print-on-demand paperbacks. StreetLib’s standard model is no up-front fees and it takes just a 10% commission per sale made.

Contact us at

Further reading

It's the end of this newsletter, but here's some essential reading to keep you up to speed with African publishing until next time.


1. Nigeria Prize for Literature announces shortlist.

You can't get much more self-explanatory than that. Head over to the New Telegraph for details.

2. Femrite Produces Multi-Lingual Poetry Anthology.

In a pioneering project, the Uganda Women Writers Association (Femrite) has published an anthology of poems in Ugandan languages and their translated versions in English by the respective poets.

The anthology titled Go Tell Home was published by Femrite Publications Ltd in 2019 and is the first multi-lingual poetry anthology in the country. The poems were contributed by 31 poets.

More details over at All Africa.

3. Finally, Brittle Paper and the James Murua blog are two among many essential websites for information about the literary scene across the African continent.

Bizarrely this past week the two news and opinion sites themselves became the news. No space to rehearse the arguments here, but  Brittle Paper has issued a statement clarifying its position.

Read more at Brittle Paper here.

The James Murua blog can be found here. I'm unable to say if James Murua has added anything to this debate as I've been unable to access the site for over a week now, but it seems this is a localised problem and judging from social media the Murua blog is still active.


The next Publish Africa newsletter will be hitting your inboxes September 19.
 Thanks for stopping by.

Publish Africa is a bi-weekly review of the Pan-African publishing scene across all formats, but with an unashamed tilt towards the digital opportunity unfolding.

Copyright © 2019 StreetLib, All rights reserved.

Publish Africa is brought to you by Mark Williams


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