DISCUSS: How Can E-Books Revolutionize Literacy and Publishing in Africa?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

E-books can reach people in Africa who might otherwise never get books. Some even say the Internet represents “Africa’s Gutenberg Moment.”

By Edward Nawotka

Worldreader in Ghana

Today’s editorial by Tolu Ogunlesi looks at a recent literacy campaign in Nigeria to inspire more people to read. The government led campaign is the latest in a long line of similar campaigns, many of which have only marginally improved the difficult lot Nigerian publishers face each day, which includes low literacy rates and a decimated publishing infrastructure.

In Africa this year, we’ve already seen how digitization — specifically social media — has helped foment political revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. If social media can oust long-term dictators, what can it do for literacy and publishing?

For starters, some — like Jeremy Weate of Nigeria’s Cassava Republic — believe e-books may help alleviate distribution problems, one of the major obstacles. Others, such as Muhtar Bakare of publishing house Farafina, have gone so far as to say that the Internet represented Africa’s “Gutenberg Moment”. We’ve already seen how companies like Canada’s Wattpad have been able to deliver books to a large population of readers in countries as far away as Vietnam by formatting their works for lowly Java-based feature phones. And in Ghana, the non-profit Worldreader has tried promoting literacy in by giving Kindles to children.

The opportunities promote literacy in Africa are endless, but it takes will, courage, and imagination to pursue them.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

A widely published critic and essayist, Edward Nawotka serves as a speaker, educator and consultant for institutions and businesses involved in the global publishing and content industries. He was also editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives since the launch of the publication in 2009 until January 2016.