Shock Value

Shock Value

The Nigerian economy, like any other, experiences “shocks”— events or policy decisions that can send a ripple of changes through the system. This column zooms in on these ripples in a range of sectors to explore how and why these shocks matter.

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Not Playing by the Book

Ebehi Iyoha

Ebehi Iyoha

Ebehi is an avid reader seeking insights in unexpected places. Her research interests include economic development, political economy and trade.

In Nigeria, paradoxes are not hard to come by. Port-Harcourt, the hub of our oil industry, UNESCO’s World Book Capital in 2014, is home to the world’s worst airport. A country with a literacy rate of 55.4%, ranking 106th out of 126 countries, has also produced acclaimed authors such as Wole Soyinka and Chinua Achebe. Yet our country’s contradictions have often made it a great muse for writers. This year, Chigozie Obioma’s The Fishermen was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and Chimamanda Adichie has become a household name both at home and abroad. The Ake Arts and Book Festival held last month in Abeokuta, is just another indicator of a new wave of interest in indigenous literature. However, these changing tides have not substantially improved the fortunes of Nigeria’s domestic publishing industry. Although this should not be too surprising given our earlier discussion about paradoxes, it may also represent a case of untapped opportunities.

For starters, we need to recognise that publishing in Nigeria is far from traditional. In traditional publishing, books garnered attention through strategic marketing and distribution involving bookstores, reviews of advanced copies, author appearances in public libraries etc. A lot of this promotion was done and paid for by publishers who own the rights to the books, with the authors receiving royalties. Sometimes a book might receive an award, but critical acclaim was not necessary (and sometimes not sufficient) to create a bestseller. In Nigeria, on the other hand, few domestic publishers are in operation, and they are beleaguered by piracy and high printing costs. Lacking ubiquity, local bookstores make poor marketing tools. For Nigerian authors, popularity tends to come from international recognition, usually through a prestigious award

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