Here at ElleAfrique we believe in an African voice, telling our own stories and empowering our own people, especially our women. Oftentimes, literary voices from the continent go largely unnoticed – lack of publishing infrastructure, funding and interest contribute to the shortage of African-centered stories. Despite the existence of talented writers from all over the continent, creating stories as unique and diversified as the continent itself, “African Literature” is still seen as a narrow sub-genre of literary art; encompassing only the iconic colonial writers and African nationalists of the past and the contemporary writings of the Chimamanda Adichie’s of the world.
Barbara Njau and Kudakwashe Kamupira saw this trend and set out to redirect it. Hence, Bahati Books was born. Bahati Books, an e-book publishing company, aims at providing a platform and e-book publishing service to talented African authors in the diaspora and on the continent. This dynamic duo started Bahati Books after realizing their frustration with major publishing houses and their lack of contemporary African content.
Since then, they’ve been on a mission to find and publish amazing and talented undiscovered authors. To date they have signed 6 authors, debuting one author a week. Since September of this year they have published 9 short stories and various poems. Their first publication, “House in the Sky” by Egyptian writer Mirette Baghat, is an engaging short story about life in downtown Cairo for Samba, a 12-year old boy living with an abusive father-in-law, a sick mother and 6 siblings.
ElleAfrique got the chance to interview the creators of this fantastic initiative about their thoughts on it’s reception and potential challenges ahead:
ElleAfrique: Thanks so much for the interview opportunity! Our first question: What’s been the response to the publishing house (in terms of it being for African books)?
Bahati Books: The response has been both amazing and overwhelming. In the middle of November we were voted as the best start-up concept at the “Africa Technology Pitch” event in IDEA London, which was hosted by Africa Tech Biz Net. This was our first time pitching to a panel of judges, who were business people and investors from diverse businesses which focused on Africa, and this was a huge vote of confidence for us that we are bringing a much needed product to a captive audience.
ElleAfrique: In your opinion, are African people reading African literature as much as they are reading books by western authors?
Bahati Books: African people have always been reading literature – both by western a
Technology has made Bahati Books create a globally accessible platform (via the website and Amazon online) where we publish authors’ work and it not only sells at an affordable retail price, but it is instantly accessible to anyone with an internet connection and a kindle or smartphone. We believe that this increased internet access, coupled by the rise of Bahati Books as an e-retailer of a book, makes African literature more accessible and caters to an existing appetite among African readers for diverse African writers.
ElleAfrique: Lastly, it’s been mentioned that African books are mostly read outside Africa because they are not affordable in Africa. Why do you think this is the case (i.e. why are they expensive in comparison to other books)?
Bahati Books: While we agree that books in general – not just African books – are mostly read outside of Africa because of cost, we don’t agree African literature is more expensive than any other type of literature. What we believe is the cost of buying a printed book is high – in the UK for example, the typical retail price of a 300 page hard-back novel is between £14.00 and £20.00 – and this is a small novel (regardless of genre – it is both African literature and non-African literature). This is expensive, and historically a large number of Africans across the continent have not had the purchasing power to spend so much money on luxury items like books, while people in the West have been able for years to afford these books. As a result, historically, African literature has been read more outside of Africa.
Yet as we previously mentioned – technology is changing this. Not only is technology revolutionising literature by making it instantly accessible to readers regardless of where they are based, but e-books are significantly cheaper than hard copy books. The same 300 page novel which cost £14.00 will cost £5.00 as an e-book. Moreover more Africans have become digitally savvy and they actually prefer to consume content on mobile devices like phones and tablets.
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About the creators:
Prior to starting Bahati Books in 2015, Barbara Njau worked in the news publishing industry for over four years. She initially started at ‘The Financial Times’ (FT) in the UK, working as a Senior Reporter and eventually an Editor for a specialist magazine called ‘Foreign Direct Investment’ magazine. She wrote financial news and investment articles focused on Africa, Asia and the Middle East and she traveled to over 40 countries to meet and interview presidents, business leaders and grassroots NGO workers to discuss investment and economic affairs.
After leaving the FT, Barbara joined ‘Raconteur Media’, which is a publishing agency based in London that publishes reports in ‘The Times’ and ‘The Sunday Times’ newspapers, and she worked as a Custom Publishing Manager, consulting its clients marketing teams ranging from real estate firm Knight Frank, to IT giant HP and law firm White and c Case, and devising with them a marketing and public relations media and publishing campaigns. Barbara has also written a book entitled “Building BRICs: The Scramble For Africa” which was published in 2013 by Endeavour Press and is available for purchase online on Amazon.
Kudakwashe Kamupira’s was born and raised in Zimbabwe but, at the age of 13, she moved to London with her family. Kudakwashe was an avid reader from a very young age and continues to enjoy reading fiction and non-fiction literature. During her early 20s she discovered and developed a love and passion for African Literature which gave her an authentic connection to her childhood memories and experiences in Zimbabwe, something which she had not felt while reading other books. Unfortunately she soon discovered that finding contemporary African Literature, aside from books from a couple of mainstream ‘best-selling’ authors, would be difficult. Thus, together with Barbara, she established Bahati Books.
Prior to Bahati Books Kudakwashe worked in the legal sector, having studied Law and Sociology at University. She started as a Legal Assistant in a boutique law firm in South West London where she worked on Residential Conveyancing transactions and private client matters. She later left that firm to join another in Kent where she worked as as a Paralegal in the Commercial Property department and specialised in plot sales and a wide range of development sites.
Aside from reading Kudakwashe also loves traveling as she enjoys learning and exploring different cultures. She also enjoys watching football and spending time with family and friends.
Bahati Book’s publications are available at www.bahatibooks.com … Bahati Books also publishes e-books by its authors online on Amazon.
You are doing great work, i appreciate your dream about african literature, i really support you, keep the good work ladies. Thanks so much
Thank you so much Richard! We both really appreciate the support!