The 17th Ghana International Book Fair (GIBF) has not long wound up, and by all accounts it was a vibrant and rewarding event, not withstanding a dark cloud emerging over publishers holding unwanted school textbooks.

With the theme “Reaching the World Market through Effective Book Distribution Networks” it was inevitable the question of the digital opportunity would be a central topic, but few could have anticipated the call to take digital seriously would come from none other than the Ghanaian Minister for Tourism, Culture & Creative Art, Mrs Barbara Oteng-Gyasi.
Oteng-Gyasi said,

In this publishing climate, culture was always unfortunately subsumed to business.
We have a publishing industry in Ghana that has about 85 per cent concentration on the textbook market.
It is sometimes very frustrating and worrying to move round bookshops for books on our heritage and culture and would not find much.

The Ghana News Agency, quoting from a prepared speech issued by the Minister, reports:

Mrs Oteng-Gyasi noted that it was understandable that publishing was a business, with profit maximisation being the driving force, however publishers owed mother Ghana a duty to bequeath to the unborn generation a well-documented history and culture.
With regards to the theme of the Fair, the Minister advised industry players to invest more into publishing contents with no territorial boundaries.
She said internet based approaches such as metadata, websites and Facebook were other effective tools for limitless distribution of books.
“There is a huge demand for our rich folklore, traditions, culture and heritage globally,” she said.
“Moreover, Ghana as a nation could benefit immensely from the publishing industry going global through the sale of our rich culture to the world.”

Read more over at GNA.
Just how much heed Ghanaian publishers will pay to the wise words of their Minister remains to be seen, but hopefully the speech will have set wheels in motion and perhaps we will in the next decade see the Ghana publishing industry rise to a place of pre-eminence on the African and global publishing stage.
But even as the GIBF stalls were being tidied away news was emerging that the 85% dependency on school textbooks as acknowledged by the Minster’s speech, was threatening to subsume the industry into further depression.
This post first appeared in issue # 6 of Publish Africa – the digital advantage.