“Being an evangelical publisher for the French-speaking world is the worst of two worlds,” quipped Greg Burgess of Editions Clé in France. “In Europe, the population has means, but there are very few Christians; in Africa, there are millions of Christians, but very limited resources.”
Christian publishing in Francophone Africa remains fragile at best. Publishers lack training and resources, and they struggle to survive amidst political instability and poverty. They have generally benefited from far less support than their English-language colleagues on the continent. Why?
“French-speaking Africa was often regarded as the poor man of the evangelical world because of its colonial past characterized by a low vitality of Protestantism in France and Belgium,” wrote Daniel Bourdanné, a native of Chad and general secretary of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES).
“Missiologically, French-speaking Africa was often neglected. This part of the world is culturally difficult and little known by the evangelical world dominated by American and Anglo-Saxon culture.”
Some twenty African countries have French as an official language. Media Associates International (MAI) hopes to spur the creation of the written word in these nations, as does director Jules Ouoba of the region’s largest publisher, Centre de Publications Evangéliques in Côte d’Ivoire. He has spearheaded regional publishing workshops in Benin, Cameroon, and Mali in recent years with MAI.
LittWorld 2012: Save the date!
MAI’s unique international publishing
This September 2011, men and women from eight nations will gather in Brazzaville, Congo, for a marketing and writing workshop led by MAI trainers.
Key participants from the Congo workshop will be invited to the LittWorld 2012 international publishing conference in Kenya, 28 October to 2 November 2012. MAI is planning a weekend pre-conference exclusively for Africa’s French-speaking Christian publishing staff and writers. Both Daniel Bourdanné and Jules Ouoba will be speakers at LittWorld 2012.
Burgess recalls visiting a seminary library in a Francophone African country. The librarian proudly showed him the collection of thousands of books. Only one in five were in French. “That meant the better part of their library was of little use to the students,” he noted.
MAI envisions a day when Francophone Africa’s libraries, churches, bookstores, family bookshelves, computers, and even e-readers and mobile phones, are filled with books written by its own authors.
(This article was first published in Words for the World newsletter, March/April 2010.)