Huza Press

Huza Press is a Rwanda-based publishing house committed to developing quality creative writing, and the growth of the creative industry through the publishing and distribution of contemporary African writing.

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Praxis speaks with Louise Umutoni, founder and director at Huza Press.

Louise suggests ways of ensuring that African published books are available, all over African countries, in as many book stores as possible…

This is a problem we are still grappling with and a few publishers have suggested all sorts of solutions, most very capital-intensive. I believe the solution lies in partnerships. Our goal at Huza Press is to work with at least one publishing house in every region to either republish for us, or serve as a distribution point for our books. E-publishing is another solution that some publishers are looking at, but lack of online payment systems pose a hindrance to this. Mobile phone penetration all over the continent is huge and still growing. E-publishing also attempts to address the payment method issue through use of mobile money. I don’t think it’s unwise to reach into the distribution networks available through mobile.

Louise shares her opinion on what can be done to ensure that there are more available and efficient publishing firms in Africa…

The problem is a monetary one. Setting up publishing houses is extremely expensive with huge overhead cost so it’s not surprising that there are very few of them on the continent. Publishing is also not immediately profitable and requires a lot of work and determination. I believe that if there were more opportunities to secure grants or some form of funding to kick-start Africa’s publishing industry then writers would have a lot more publishing opportunities.

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We talk about e-books and the role publishers can play in the digital engagement of readers…

I am a huge advocate of e-books and if we were not struggling with the payment issues I mentioned, Huza Press would largely publish online. I think a lot of publishers are aware of the power of e-books and it would be very silly to ignore this power. In Africa, it would help us address the distribution issue.

How much then is done in the utilization of the internet as a distribution platform?

I think it’s something that as a continent we are still learning how to use, but we need to start by addressing the problem of an online payment system. Selling commodities or content online in Africa is not as hustle-free as it is in Europe or North America. We don’t have reliable online payment systems and mobile money is not cross-cutting. There are a few platforms that have been set up to sell African content such as Nuntu, but they are still grappling with creating a reliable payment system. I think that once we address the payment system issue then we will start to see a lot more use of the internet as a distribution platform.

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On having online platforms catering to specifically African Literature, she says…

I think that if it’s clear that these platforms cater to African literature, and they have contractual terms that do not exploit writers such as is the case with Amazon, then they would provide an alternative to Amazon and the likes. Nuntu is doing that and I think that in a few years they will be the go to site for African content.

In order to break down language barriers across African countries so as to have more works written, published and translated in various African languages, Louise says…

Mukoma Wa Ngugi wrote a piece recently published by Jalada in which he provides a solution to this. He argues that we should put money where our words and support those writing in local languages. Mukoma is already doing this through the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African literature.

Jalada is also doing this through their language anthology in which they published stories in African languages with translations in English. I think the solution is quite simple and involves providing a platform for works written in African languages to be published.

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She finally talks about the difficulties encountered in running Huza Press and how she deals with them…

Our biggest problem is distribution, something we are looking to address through partnerships and using online platforms such as Nuntu which have been set up to address issues of content distribution on the continent.

The discussion is not over yet; hang on as we bring you Richard Ali from Parresia! Thank you, for reading 🙂

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