Promoting technical literature in Africa
MetadataShow full item record
CTA. 1993. Promoting technical literature in Africa. Spore 43. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/45911
There is a common belief that Africans are more accustomed to reaming by word of mouth than by the written word: but a recent survey commissioned by CTA, the French Ministry of Cooperation and ACCT challenges this view. In fact, the authors of the...
There is a common belief that Africans are more accustomed to reaming by word of mouth than by the written word: but a recent survey commissioned by CTA, the French Ministry of Cooperation and ACCT challenges this view. In fact, the authors of the survey Didier Chabrol of GRET and Paul Osborn of SATIS, have reached the conclusion that technical literature is the main source of information and progress, not just for technically educated Africans. but also for development workers and community leaders. What prevents Africans from reading more is the lack of available books rather than lack of time. For Africans, reading is a means of addressing specific problems and needs rather than a leisure pursuit. The demand for books far outweighs supply, for two main reasons. Firstly, the commercial distribution networks are not addressing this market and not enough books are published. This results in a lack of information on existing literature and gives rise to complicated procedures for ordering books. Secondly, the high price of books limits potential readership. CTA appreciates the need for action to stimulate production and distribution of technical literature in Africa. In order to explore how this might best be achieved, CTA held a workshop for 60 representatives from the world of publishing and distribution in Arnhem, the Netherlands, from 3-6 November last year. The participants, drawn in equal numbers from the North and the South, represented both governmental and non-governmental organizations with cooperation and development in both the anglophone and francophone countries of the ACP group. Participants shared their own experiences of book distribution to the general public, of the use of subsidies to lower the sale price of books and of publishing and distributing books for the education market. Successful case histories were presented and discussed. The role of the publisher was examined, not just as a producer of books, but also as intermediary between author and reader. So too was the role of the distributor in both the formal and the non-formal sectors on the one hand, and in commercial bookshops and institutional distributors on the other. One of the main areas of debate concerned the interaction between aid donors and institutional, associative and commercial publishers in both the North and the South, and whether this was always purely competitive or could be complimentary and cooperative. The expectations of the end user were analyzed at length. The principle conclusion of the meeting was that the main obstacle to the furtherance of technical publishing in Africa is the lack of a viable market like that which exists in the educational sector. To overcome this problem various recommendations were made: - Indigenous African technical publishing should be encouraged in order to reduce dependence on outside supply; but complete self-sufficiency in publishing should not be attempted. - Training programmed in publishing, distribution and marketing must be developed and coordinated. - Subsidies on both production and distribution must be strengthened, and must be thought of as capital investments. - The policy of book donation must be reconsidered, and perhaps redirected to wards institutions such as libraries and documentation or research centres which serve large numbers of readers, but which do not have sufficient funds to acquire all the books they need. Gifts to individuals should be restricted in order to avoid the same sort of unfortunate consequences that resulted from the distribution of food aid. - A study of the non-formal book trade should be carried out in order to identify ways of stimulating its development. - A strategy should be developed that would create a series of technical and practical paperbacks intended for a wide public. - All those involved in the African publishing chain must act together as a pressure group in order to change laws affecting the publishing industry. Governments must be persuaded to abolish the tax on books and the materials required for their manufacture, e.g. paper and publishing and printing materials and equipment. - The existing funds held for bank guarantees (for example the Rafad, Dag Hammerskjold and Books for Africa Foundations) must be extended; more are needed. - Publishing must be promoted in Africa through a number of selected activities such as book fairs, book programmes on radio and TV and columns in newspapers, the creation of extension of information centres, and the publication and distribution of catalogues. The Arnhem meeting sought to go beyond a mere inventory of constraints and possible solutions. The aim was to arrive at concrete action. Its achievement was to bring together participants of greatly differing backgrounds and circumstances and to give them the chance to work together and establish contact. As the eighteenth-century Irish philosopher Edmund Burke said,'Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.' At Arnhem some steps were taken in the right direction.