Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 25, July 1999 


Tanzania's Seventh National Book Week Festival, September-October 1998

Abdullah Saiwaad
Abdullah Saiwaad is Executive Secretary, Publishers Association of Tanzania, PO Box 1408, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Tel +255 51 183462/183369, e-mail:

The Tanzanian Publishers Association (PATA) initiated National Book Weeks in 1988 to promote books and the reading habit in Tanzania. The first National Book Week Festival, organised in collaboration with other book sector organisations, had the theme Kusoma kwa Wote (reading for all). Activities included an exhibition of publishers and booksellers from inside and outside Tanzania, seminars, workshops and cultural activities. The first five festivals were held in Dar es Salaam. The sixth also included eight regions of Tanzania. After the sixth, the newly formed National Book Week Committee took over organising the festivals.

Seventh National Book Week
In June 1998 the East African Book Week Committee decided to hold a three-year programme for Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania to encourage reading - from small children to adults. The Seventh Tanzanian National Book Week Festival, held in Dar es Salaam from 14 to 21 September 1998, and in 12 regional centres from 28 September to 4 October 1998, became part of this initiative with the theme 'reading is progress'. As well as the exhibition in Dar es Salaam with exhibitors from the African Publishers Network (APNET), Kenya, Uganda and the UK, smaller exhibitions were held in regional libraries.

The Chairman of the East African Book Week Committee, James Tumusiime, was the guest of honour at a book presentation ceremony in Kibaha. This launched the rural outreach programme, whose aim is to alleviate book hunger in the disadvantaged rural communities of Tanzania. Schools and libraries in the Kibaha and Tabora regions each received donated books worth Tshs. 500,000. Ndanda Mission Press donated 2,000 books valued at Tshs. 1,400,000 to Tanzania Library Service Board, which conducts Saturday reading sessions for children in the library network.

Also during the festival the Deputy Minister for Education and Culture, Hon. Bujiku Sakila, inaugurated the New Textbook Approval System. This evaluates and recommends books as school textbooks provided they meet agreed standards. Previously only the Tanzania Institute could write textbooks for use in schools.

A children's reading tent was set up in Dar es Salaam and one day was designated as children's day, with prizes for winners of the reading and drawing competitions. Children's involvement was also encouraged with an inter-secondary school quiz held throughout Book Week. Unfortunately only 12 schools were able to participate, partly because the book week coincided with regional examinations and partly because the schools received late notice.

A programme of seminars and workshops included one sponsored by APNET on strategic and sustainable reading promotion in East Africa with 25 participants drawn from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and APNET. Attendance at the regional seminars by local publishers was disappointing: most indigenous publishers are short staffed with limited finances, and trying to run their business in their offices as usual and at the same time display books in their stalls is difficult.

A highlight of the festival was a workshop, opened by the Deputy Minister for Education, to set up a Book Development Council. After years of attempts a constitution was discussed and an interim committee of five members formed to lay the groundwork for the Council.

Another success was the Booksellers and Publishers Meeting. For the first time since the declaration of the commercial textbook publishing policy, publishers met booksellers to iron out their differences.

Book Week provided the occasion for a range of other activities: the booksellers held a convention; Fountain Publishers of Uganda launched Tanzania, the Story by Julius Nyerere from the pages of Drum magazine; while at the Tanzania Literary Awards ceremony TEPUSA (Network of Technical Publications in Africa) awarded a prize to the author of the best manuscript, and the Book Week committee gave prizes to three publishers of the best books published in 1997 in the poetry, fiction and play genres.

Alongside the successes were considerable difficulties. The total costs of the festival were around US$83,000, with over half provided by donors. Some revenue came from sales of stands and advertising space in the festival brochure, but there was an overall deficit and fund-raising failed to provide a single cent, partly because of the bad economic situation and partly because there was a delay in requesting funds. Some items of expenditure were under-budgeted due to a change of venue. The immediate financial value of the festival could not be established because records of the business transacted during the festival were not collected.

The Eighth National Book Week will be held from 28 September to 4 October 1999. The National Book Week Committee, comprising representatives from different book sector organisations, will organise the week. Learning from the experiences of 1998 they will control all the resources through their own bank account. If the Book Development Council is formed this year, it will also be involved.

The future
The book industry in Tanzania is at a critical stage: the various interventions to do with textbooks could either lead Tanzanian publishing forward or completely halt it. Following last year's launch of the new textbook approval system, the government plans in the next 18 months to provide textbooks at one per child. This year, for the first time, publishers and/or their agents will deliver books up to district level. Also for the first time the government is trialling the devolution of funds to district level which PATA hopes will eventually lead to the devolution to district level of responsibility for book purchase. These new interventions should begin a flood of books in the marketplace - a rarity in rural Tanzania. So that the people understand the changes and react positively a serious mobilisation needs to be done, and the rural outreach and regional exhibitions need more emphasis this year.

This year's festival theme is Vitabu kwa Wote (books for all). There will be book exhibitions in Dar es Salaam and other regional centres, a further book presentation as part of the rural outreach programme, literary awards, cultural activities, and workshops and seminars covering copyright and 'The New Deal, the dilemma - should publishers or booksellers sell books to government?' The children's reading tent will be a strong focus with increased activities to avoid last year's queues. Marketing and publicity will include festival brochures, posters, T-shirts, banners, press releases for newspapers, radio and TV and interviews. [end] [BPN, no 25, 1999, p 4.]

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