Many contributors have highlighted some of the obstacles to a profitable book industry in Africa, but unfortunately no one has really offered any ideas for addressing this critical challenge. I would like to offer five such ideas:
First, concerned African scholars should invest at least 1% of their monthly income in a publishing company of their choice in Africa. This investment should be done monthly for at least 10 years. This will help to capitalize publishing companies that stand in dire need of financing. It's simply not enough to expect government and the business community to fully fund book publishing.
Second, concerned African scholars should invest another 0.5% of their monthly incomes in a bookstore of their choice in Africa. Same idea as above.
Third, we should encourage the culture of book launches throughout Africa. Nigeria seems to do very well in that respect, although it looks like book launches there are often mere opportunities for quasi-writers to advance a political agenda/ambition, rather than really promoting book distribution.
Fourth, we should strongly advocate for tax-free policies on the importation and sale of books published in Africa throughout Africa. This will greatly help to expand the market for books.
Fifth, we should establish book clubs in each of the 53 countries of Africa, and try to link them through some loose network. The network should have an electronic newsletter that will help to disseminate ideas, information and reviews of about books published on the continent. All it takes is for about 5 people in each country to start a book club.
Just imagine this: if we had 1,000 concerned African scholars, each investing $50 a month across 10 African bookshops, it will generate at least $5,000 per month for each bookstore. With that, the bookstore can advertise, organize book-reading/signing tours by writers, and systematically capitalize its operations. And, believe me, they will reap substantial financial returns on their investment. There is no magic to this.
I'm sure that the logistics of this plan can be fully worked out if the will is there. Otherwise, we will just complain ad infinitum and nothing, but nothing, will change. If folks are interested, I can do a draft business plan for this.