Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on the Future of the Book

The African Book: Hypotheses for the Future

Walter Bgoya, Mary Jay.

The publishing situation in Africa is one of extreme underdevelopment. Yet publishing has a key role to play in the continent’s economic, social and cultural development. Culture is a precondition of development, development being a dialogue and a process of social change and progress, rooted within the local cultural context. This acknowledges that culture goes hand-in-hand with increased social and political consciousness; and that writing and literature are an integral part of a culturally dynamic society. Publishing is a cultural activity through which literature, science and ideas can be articulated. Books contribute to the reconstruction of history and identity, to scholarship and education; they provide pleasure and enjoyment and bring other benefits to the social and spiritual development of individuals and societies.

Publishing has a key role to play in ensuring that reading does not remain the preserve of an élite literate minority; or an activity that is confined to schools and universities for the purpose of passing examinations. Indigenous publishers have a particularly important role to play in seeking to promote literature and publishing in African languages.

This presentation will outline some of the key initiatives take by African publishers to develop the industry, and address weak infrastructure, for example by utilising the new print technologies; consider the impact of European publishers and international institutions; and hypothesise about future prospects and ways forward.


Walter Bgoya  (United Kingdom)

Founder and Chairman of African Books Collective. Managing Director of
Mkuki na Nyota Publishers

Walter Bgoya is a Tanzanian publisher. For 18 years he was the General Manager of the Tanzania Publishing House, and in 1990 established his own independent company, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers of Dar es Salaam. Rooted in the culture of Tanzania, the company publishes with the mission of Africa’s determination to take control of its own intellectual and cultural life, and the paramount importance of literature as a tool of personal liberation and development. A former diplomat, Walter Bgoya is a founder and Chairman of African Books Collective, Chairman of The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa, and a found member of the African Publishers’ Network.

Mary Jay  (United Kingdom)

Head of African Books Collective

Mary Jay is Head of African Books Collective, comprising 89 African publishers working together to strengthen indigenous African publishing. Its mission is cultural, and a major part of the strategy is commercial. ABC markets and distributes the 89 lists worldwide, and in North America through Michigan State University Press; and works to raise awareness about African books and publishing. Mary Jay is a Trustee and Secretary to The Noma Award for Publishing in Africa; and a Trustee of the Southern African Book Development & Education Trust. She was previously deputy to the publisher in an African Studies publishing house.


(Plenary Speaker, English)