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Books: Tapping the local publishing opportunity

Over the years, books have been regarded as an important media for the development and promotion of students. In fact, experts believe that they act as catalysts for the advancement of a nation. Needless to say, it is only in books where you find recorded ideas — they preserve and communicate knowledge, impart education and values, as well as aid the overall development of an individual. But how can the local books publishing industry be revamped into a hub for the region? In an interview with Education, Frank Shumbusho, an education sector policy analyst, points out that the books publishing industry in Rwanda is a fairly young one that has been in existence for not more than 20 years. He cites, however, that the industry over the past five years has been more vibrant than ever. “In the past five years, over 40 local publishing companies sprung up. These are producing mostly children’s storybooks and textbooks for the education market.” However, Shumbusho is of the view that the book publishing industry is hugely underdeveloped, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. “Most countries depend on publishing companies from former colonial masters for the provision of most of the literature consumed. This has led to the retarded growth of the local publishing industries in most African countries. “The little capacity of the local publishing companies in Africa means that some genres and subject areas remain hugely unpublished. These include, but are not limited to, baby books (for ages 0-3 years), children’s storybooks, African history, trade books (books for leisure that inculcate the notion for lifelong learning, creativity and innovation) among other genres,” Shumbusho says.  Tapping into the potential market According to Divine Uwase, a teacher and publisher, the books publishing industry in Africa remains heavily untapped. Her comment is based on the global statistics that indicate how the business accounts to $115 billion revenues annually. Whereas publishing revenues in Africa contribute only about $1 billion, but with a growth rate of 6% year on year, the future of the industry is bright. According to Shumbusho, in Rwanda the industry generates about $7 million. However, “In the past two years, the government through the Rwanda Education Board in-house textbook production, took over all the publishing of textbooks for schools. Before then, the textbook market constituted over 90% of the revenues for publishers. Since the REB takeover of the textbooks market, the growth of the local publishing industry has regressed,” Shumbusho says.  Challenges Speaking to this paper, Mutesi Gasana, the founder of Arise Education, a company which deals in selling and publishing books, says that lack of policy makes it impossible to understand the key players in the industry and therefore halters growth. She says, “When an industry lacks policy, no investor will dare to dream of investing. “Other challenges include lack of enough capacity in the industry, financial, technical and human resources, high prices of books produced locally resulting from expensive printing services in the local market. “Government is undertaking the publishing of textbook and this normally from other countries is a contributor to the growth of publishing by 80%, this helps publishers to gain the financial muscle to invest in culture, tourism, developmental projects that promote the access and availability of reading resources in Rwanda,” she says.  What should be done? Gasana says that there is need to embrace digitalisation as publishers in order to spread content across the globe. “Rwanda is already becoming an IT hub and this could become a facilitator for digital content publishing,” Gasana says. “The Government of Rwanda should put up a Book Policy. A Book Policy is a regulatory framework that anchors the laws, standards and rules and regulations that help foster a prudent playing field in the industry. It is a pre-requisite for impeccable and high-quality books to be written and accepted anywhere in the world,” Shumbusho points out.

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