Rwandan publishers decry lack of reading culture

Friday February 27 2015

By ANDREW ISRAEL KAZIBWE, RT Special Correspondent

Lack of reading culture among Rwandans has impacted growth of local publishing industry even as the government comes up with programmes to boost the sector.

Publishing industry is still struggling with poor marketing of published books and limited market.

“Dusome Duharanira Kwigira” (literacy for self reliance) is this year’s theme for the third annual book and reading festival, which kicked off on February 16 and will run for six days.

Organised by Ministry of Sports and Culture, the festival aims at promoting reading and writing culture, raising awareness about the role of libraries and sensitising parents about their role in children’s literacy.

A book fair to showcase works by both local and foreign publishers was staged at Remera’s Petit Stade, while a conference, which brought together over 50 publishers from Rwanda, Kenya and Uganda was held in Kigali as part of the week’s programme.

Before 1994, Rwandans never ventured into publishing business. Edition Bakame is one of the first indigenous publishing firms.

From 1999 onwards, regional and international publishers such as Oxford University Press, Macmillan, MK, Pearson among others entered the market, though the reading culture has not improved.

Close to nine indigenous publishers, among them Excel, SBD, Bloo Books and Penda Kusoma have opened shop in the country.

However, indigenous publishers have not made strides in improving reading culture.

Arthur Barigye, a director for SBD, a local book publishing and distribution company said lack of incentives to protect publishers and limited skill on the publishing business is slowing down the growth of the market. He regretted that a number of books have been published but they are not known because of lack of marketing.

Few bookshops and no library

Barigye urged local publishers to market their products so that people can be motivated to purchase them.

“I feel we have not done enough when it comes to taking our products out there to the people,” he said.

Unlike in other countries, Rwanda has had few bookshops and no library untill in 2012 when the National Library was established. The library is situated in Kigali.

Lawrence Ngagi, the chairperson of Kenya Publisher’s Association noted that young generation is plagued by low reading culture, which he said is spread across the region.

He said most books published today, comprising of textbooks and pamphlets, mainly focus on the curriculum and guide learners on passing examinations.

“It is a read-to-pass exams situation, which after school, books are discarded,” he said.

Minister for Sports and Culture Joseph Habineza blamed the local broadcast media for not endeavouring to promote reading culture.

To grow the reading culture, James Tumusiime, an author and the managing director of Fountain Publishers stated that publishers should take the blame.

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