Digital publishing: Ghana, Africa lagging behind

By Issa Sikiti da Silva, in Accra, Ghana

Although internet usage in Africa has grown by a whopping 3 606%, compared to the world average of 566%, the continent’s digital publishing industry is still underdeveloped and lagging behind, due to quite a number of obstacles.

As the Goethe Institut and Frankfurter Buchmesse found out in their 2012 Survey on the Publishing Sector in Selected sub-Saharan Countries, digital innovations for mobile phones or e-books are not very popular so far on the continent.

Some of the problems in this regard are poor network coverage – especially in rural areas - and weak internet connections, as well as high costs and the lack of electricity for charging phones or e-book readers, the report, conducted in Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, said.

There is also the issue of whether the latest smart phones have a big enough screen for reading an e-book.

In Ghana, the continued inability of local publishers to access credit financing, and the high rates of interest on borrowing have combined to frustrate attempts at fully exploiting these opportunities, the Bellagio Publishing Network said.

“These are critical issues a traditional publishing house has to look at before attempting to venture into digital publishing,” Abdallah Audu, a former teacher who worked in a publishing house for many years, told Biztechafrica.

“There are no printing costs in digital publishing and no logistics involved in the distribution process, but it’s a road that is infested with many technical problems,” he added.

“Many Africans read less, even online, they are always on YouTube, Facebook or other social networks. You need a solid base of e-readers.”

Hans M. Zell, who described Africa as a ‘bookless society’, said however that harnessing e-publishing and print-on demand technology would make it possible to publish books that would otherwise be too costly to print in large quantities where markets were not assured.

Despite these challenges, Ghana’s Cobby Asmah, MD of Type Company Limited, called on his country’s publishers to adopt digital publishing, saying that it would help them gain access to a larger market.

Bearing in mind that his country’s e-publishing sector was in a stagnant state, Asmah urged Ghana publishers to apply technology and innovation in their publications in the aim of adding value to their products and services.


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