During my days of involvement with USIS programs,
I had an opportunity to observe some of USAID's involvement in book
publishing, particularly the results of its heydays in the sixties.
My opinion of several, notably those in Mexico and India, was that these
were USAID programs that made a lasting difference. So I read James
Tumusiime's article, Uganda's book industry: flourishing without roots
with some disappointment.
What are some of the differences? Mexico and India
already had printing industries and a small number (reaching a critical
mass) of struggling publishers. The AID support was handled through
major American publishers like McGraw-Hill, J. Wiley and Prentice-Hall,
which created joint ventures with local publishers. Much of the support
went to reprints and translations of existing American books. However,
the publishers were also encouraged to publish new works. After the
USAID support wound down and the American publishers disengaged themselves,
much more vigorous publishing industries were left behind.
From Tumusiime's description, little infrastructure
exists in Uganda and the program does not require it to be installed
and used. Second, both Mexico and India had large populations; Uganda's
is much smaller. Therefore, sustaining a thriving, diverse publishing
industry will be much more difficult after the donor leaves. However,
it is far from being a mini-state. It is larger than Ghana, where locally
published literature and children's books are available in reasonable
quantities taking into consideration the state of the economy and the
purchasing power of the population. And unlike Nigeria, which had the
involvement of many British publishers in the sixties, Ghanaian publishers
have done it pretty much on their own.
Having only Tumusiime's article for information,
I hesitate to make any definitive analyses but throw out a couple ideas
coming from Côte d'Ivoire's experience. Here there are two major
publishers, both of which are owned and controlled by the Hachette group
and which have been around for several decades. When the Ivoirian government
required in 1995 that the primary school books be printed in the country,
it gave a big boost to the local printing industry (which admittedly
is quite well developed and modern). It also meant production costs
Could requiring local production work? Secondly,
is competition necessary for high-quality books? These two publishers
would say no. If the publishers work hand in hand with the government
to assure quality, you will get it. Of course, you must be willing to
pay for it. Finally, both these publishers produce a certain number
of trade books. They have to because an informal part of their privileged
position is that they will publish a certain number of children's books
and literature. Couldn't those Ugandan publishers which are successful
in the textbook market also be convinced to support the cultural development
of Uganda through publishing new writing?
06 BP1160, Abidjan 06, Côte d'Ivoire.
Tel +225 44 09 98, fax +225 44 45 36, e-mail: email@example.com
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 24, 1998>>