New blood needed for indigenous African publishing
Damola Ifaturoti is a Nigerian publisher working in the USA. 14-08 Deer
Creek Drive, Plainsboro, New Jersey, NJ 08536, USA. Tel +1 609-7167224,
fax +1 609-7167015, e-mail: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
The Nigerian book industry has been dogged
over the years by the lack of regeneration of mainstream publishing
personnel. Every industry requires regular renewal of its key human
resource base in order to adopt fresh and imaginative ideas and thereby
adapt to the new technological developments occurring around the world.
This is all the more crucial for the developing regions of the world
in order to close the yawning gap between local industries and their
counterparts in the developed nations.
With Nigeria's indigenisation decrees of the
early 1970s, many of the country's major publishing houses (which
had sprung from overseas parent companies) passed the mantle of leadership
on to mainly indigenous marketing and administrative personnel hand-picked
by the parent companies. Expertise in marketing rather than mainstream
publishing was favoured and promoted. After all, the parent companies
were naturally more interested in sales distribution of their overseas-produced
books rather than in any serious all-round development of the local
Many of these first-generation Nigerian executives
remained firmly in place for the next three decades as the country's
national economy went from boom to bust. Like their former colonial
masters, they did not take any serious steps to train editorial and
book production personnel, crucial for the survival of the country's
budding industry. Instead they mimicked their old masters' policy,
concentrating mainly on developing markets for overseas-produced products.
As a result, professionalism in what may be termed the 'core sectors'
of the book production process suffered tremendously. Editors and
book designers were not adequately groomed and in consequence the
skills and expertise required in these key areas underwent continuous
decline over the years.
Meanwhile the recession of Nigeria's national
economy from the 1980s severely handicapped the emergence of a new
generation of indigenous publishers. Many second-generation publishing
concerns disappeared from the landscape as quickly as they appeared.
These included not only fly-by-night organisations but also serious,
well-intentioned and potentially effective companies. The few managing
to carry on business have done so operating under grossly inadequate
conditions and in a chronically depressed business environment.
Fortunately a new dispensation is unfolding in
Nigeria with the arrival of civilian democracy and the departure of
a long and disastrous military interregnum which had crippling effects
on both the national economy and the polity. As the state of governance
in the country improves, help is needed urgently for Nigeria's local
book industry. Promoting professionalism in the core sectors of the
industry will facilitate the emergence of new generations in book publishing,
encourage them to take on leading roles, develop the fresh ideas necessary
for regeneration of the industry and end the stagnation which it has
suffered for far too long. [end] [BPN, no 25, 1999,
to table of contents for BPN Newsletter 25, 1999>>