Publish and Still Perish: The Challenges Facing Scholarly Publishers in Africa

Africa produces about 2% of world book output while it accounts for about 12% of book consumption. Of the 2% that it produces, the majority accounts for what is generally termed as education or school book publishing. Scholarly publishing in Africa comprises in the region of 0.08% of knowledge production, and even more precarious is the fact that the greater percentage of this comprises journal articles, which leaves the scholarly monograph as the ‘most endangered species’. This seminar examines the state of the university press in order to highlight the role that the press can play not only in pushing the frontiers of scholarly knowledge production but also to show how a university press can be an effective ambassador of a university if it is properly managed. While a university press is par for the course in most of Europe and the US, the reverse is true in Africa. Even in the most developed publishing industry in Africa, namely South Africa, the university press faces numerous challenges, ranging from dwindling subsidies from the parent university, declining library budgets that are swinging in favour of serials, an impoverished university community as well as a small general reading audience. The corporatization and managerialism that are now so pervasive in the university system have not spared the university press. To all intents and purposes, given the precarious state in which the university press finds itself in Africa, it comes as no surprise that research institutes, and science councils in the case of South Africa, have taken over the role of scholarly publisher. While academics the world over are implored to publish or perish, in Africa this Manichean binary opposite is not always the case as indeed academics can publish and still perish.

Date: Tuesday 22 May 2012
Time: 15.30-17.00
Venue: Room SA37, Pieter de la Court building, Wassenaarseweg 52, Leiden
Speaker: Solani Ngobeni, Africa Institute of South Africa
Discussant: Dr Jos Damen, librarian African Studies Centre

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21 mei 2012