A Case for National Book and Reading Policies for Africa - In the Advent of the Digital Revolution

National Book Policies (NBPs) as a concept has been with us since the 1970’s. It was propagated by UNESCO ostensibly to urge member countries to formulate and adopt book and reading policies with a view to ensuring that books and other reading materials are developed and made commonplace for the purpose of supporting education, literacy and lifelong learning. NBPs require legal action through the Ministries of Education or Culture, because a law needs to be enacted for setting up a National Book Development Council (NBDC). This body is necessary for regulating the book industry, which is by nature complex. With the government being at the centre, it involves authors, publishers/printers, distributors/wholesalers, booksellers, libraries/archivists and last but not least the user/consumer (see Figure 1below). Today the book chain is even more complex as all actors involved in publishing digital materials would need to be added. The globalization of electronic publishing did not lead to a balanced representation of publications and knowledge, but the dominance of research and information from the Global North remains. For example, the whole continent of Africa contains only about 2.6% of the world’s geotagged Wikipedia articles despite having 14% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s landmass (Information Geographics, 2016).