Two developments are serving as a catalyst for the African publishing industry. The first concerns the implementation of bilingual education policy at the primary level: South Africa, Mozambique, Mali, Ethiopia are among the states committed to using African languages as the medium of instruction alongside former colonial languages. The second concerns a shift in attitudes towards the materials used in the teaching of reading. Whereas, traditionally, the emphasis was exclusively on textbooks, new approaches to the teaching are creating a demand for what are sometimes termed ‘supplementary reading materials’.
African language publishing, however, is at an embryonic stage. Because parents have little disposable income, there is a very limited trade market and heavy dependence on the market guaranteed by sales to Education Departments. There is also a lack of infrastructural capacity. Production issues include a shortage of writers in African languages and of translators with experience of children’s literature. There are also problems in distributing the books.