Bellagio Publishing Network  

BPN Newsletter Issue No 20, Autumn 1997 


The Library Market in Africa

Margaret Ling

Margaret Ling directs the Zimbabwe International Book Fair's European office and is the Honorary Secretary of the Southern African Book Development Education Trust

The practical benefits to trade and networking to be gained from organising an educational event at a book fair were much in evidence at the SABDET/ZIBF seminar series at this year's London International Book Fair (LIBF), 16-18 March at Kensington Olympia. Large and diverse audiences of publishers, librarians, booksellers, consultants, media and development people came out buzzing with ideas, contacts and enthusiasm.

The three-part series, `The Library Market in Africa', looked ahead to the `libraries' theme of the 1997 Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF), 2-9 August in Harare. Held on what is traditionally regarded as Librarians' Day at the LIBF, Monday 17 March, the series covered the role of African libraries in the community, the new and developing library market in South Africa, and access to information in Africa.

Besides flying the flag for Africa in a setting that is otherwise dominated by the European and North American book trade, the seminars set out to raise issues and questions that would be tackled in more detail, and in an African setting, later this year in Harare. The ZIBF97 organisers were determined that this year's fair would help to push libraries and library development up the policy agenda of African governments and funding agencies, and to share ideas about how libraries can be and are being made to work in challenging circumstances.

Eda Mutua, of Moi University, Kenya and the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, took the audience far from the wonders of the multimedia section in the exhibit hall below to consider how women communicate in rural areas of Kenya, and the failure of the national information structure to provide for their needs.

Seyoum Hameso, from Ethiopia's Sidama province and currently at Thames Valley University, England, described how the past enforcement of a single national language policy caused resentment and alienation. Support for local language publishing would speed up national information development, he suggested.

Rajen Munoo, librarian at Fort Hare University, South Africa, and June Moshoeshoe, director of the Eastern Cape Provincial Library and Archives Services, South Africa, presented an overwhelming case for libraries to help overcome South Africa's apartheid legacy. Empowering local communities to control their own information sources is part of South Africa's democratisation and librarians and educationists need to work together to make sure that this happens.

South Africa's library system needs a lively and responsive local publishing industry and an effective book supply and distribution system. Eve Horwitz, director of academic publishing at Juta Publishers, Cape Town, riveted her audience with her no-holds-barred account of the challenges facing South African industry. South Africa is an important future market for relevant material published elsewhere in Africa and African publishers and booksellers could do well to investigate it.

Nyaki Adeya, of Moi University, Kenya and Napier University, Scotland, presented a stimulating prospect of the potential of electronic communications for the African information and publishing industry. A practical illustration was provided by Elisah Opiyio of Cardiff University, where hand-held palm top computers for rural medical workers are under development.

Antoinette Correa, University of Dakar, brought the discussion back to the hard realities of information provision in Senegal, where 80 per cent of books are imported and the cheapest locally produced book is likely to cost the equivalent of a week's salary for a teacher. Echoing the ZIBF96 Indaba on National Book Policy, she stressed the imperative of an enabling national policy environment for the book industry.

The mixture of visionary potential and market-oriented nuts and bolts presented by the seminar speakers proved a stimulating one. Outside in the LIBF exhibit halls, where the Zimbabwe International Book Fair has taken a stand for the past three years and the African Books Collective for two, Africa is now firmly established as an issue for the trade.

For a full report of `The Library Market in Africa' seminar series, contact: Southern African Book Development Education Trust (SABDET) Margaret Ling, Hon Secretary, 25 Endymion Road, London N4 1EE. Tel +44-(0)181-348 8463; fax +44-(0)181-348 4403; e-mail

Further information on the Zimbabwe International Book Fair is available from the same address for readers in Europe, North America and the Caribbean. Readers in Africa and the rest of the world contact: ZIBF, PO Box CY1179 Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe. Tel +263-4-702104/ 702108; fax +263-4-702129; Email or [end] [BPN, no 20, 1997, p. 8]

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