A Giant of African Publishing has Fallen

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Article By Africa Speaks


On Friday, March 8, 2024 in Nairobi, as the Africa Speaks Roundtable Consultation (ASROCO) drew to a close with a talent contest whose winners were preparing to receive their awards, copies of the book Coming of Age: Strides in African Publishing, a collection of essays honoring Dr. Henry Chakara on his 70th birthday, little did they know that Dr. Chakara had passed away that very morning, at the age of 77.

Dr. Henry Miyinzi Chakava was a distinguished Kenyan publisher and award-winning author whose influence extended beyond the borders of Kenya. He began his career in 1972, as editor and then editor-in-chief of the international publishing house Heinemann Educational Books, where he helped publish and promote leading African writers such as Nigerian Chinua Achebe.

In 1992, he took over the establishment and began a process that led to the creation of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP), a wholly Kenyan-owned company, which he later expanded in Uganda and Tanzania.

In the educational field, Dr. Chakava has helped to change the narrative that was previously heavily influenced by a Western point of view. He has published many educational and cultural books from an African perspective that have been of major importance in East Africa. In addition to books in English, he published in local languages, at a time when local languages were still considered subversive by governments and authorities. Henry Chakava was also a visiting lecturer at Oxford Brookes University.

One of his greatest contributions as an author was his book Publishing in Africa: One Man’s Perspective, published by Bellagio Publishing Network in 1996, in which he explored the issues of publishing in Africa, and for which Chinua Achebe wrote a brief introduction.



The book Coming of Age: Strides in African Publishing is a Festschrift dedicated to Henry Chakava, featuring sixteen chapters contributed by prominent figures in African literature and publishing. Notable authors like Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Simon Gikandi, and Micere Githae Mugo, along with colleagues from Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, and internationally, pay tribute to Chakava’s significant contributions to African publishing. The first five chapters honor Chakava’s work and evaluate his impact on publishing and literary development in Africa.


The subsequent eleven chapters delve into various aspects of African publishing, covering topics such as scholarly publishing, copyright issues, the digital age’s influence on publishing, the international market for African books, professional training, and the importance of research and documentation in African book industries.

Dr. Chakava was also a founding member of African Publishers Network (APNET), a collective voice of publishers in Africa, and one of the founders of ABC (African Books Collective) working with publishers in other African countries to take control of their own distribution and participate in their own voices on the international stage. Together, they have fought to make ABC the voice of African publishers, and a non-profit enterprise promoting the independent publishing and distribution of books from the continent.

Dr. Henry Chakava, acclaimed as the father of publishing in Kenya, leaves a tremendous literary, publishing and cultural legacy to African posterity that will continue to bear fruit for a long time to come.


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Africa Speaks

Africa Speaks is an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.


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