Journeying With African Christian Scholars and Writers

author profile image
Article By Africa Speaks

Angus Crichton is the Global Advocacy Manager for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), a British Christian publisher and mission agency. He is also one of the founding partners of ATNP. He describes himself as a formerly unenlightened European who has spent thirty years being educated into the wonders of God on the great continent of Africa, including by supporting African Christian scholars on their research and writing journeys.

The following are three convictions about Christian publishing in Africa that have developed as he has listened, learnt, and facilitated scholars and writers.


1. Living libraries of African Christianity abound on every street corner

The African continent is the very opposite of the theological wasteland of the European imagination, waiting for outsiders to tell the African Christian story or donate theology brewed elsewhere. Theological creativity abounds at every turn and has done so for millennia. Christian answers to African questions are hammered out in pastoral practice, creative choruses, liturgical innovation, and classroom content. Heavy professional and personal responsibilities, a lack of experienced editors and a collaborative approach (see below) restrict this wisdom from being published for a wider audience, particularly beyond its country of origin. Based in the UK, I have access to four of the world’s great research libraries that are filled with titles on African Christianity. None of these compares to the living libraries for the study and reflection on African Christianity on every street corner, WhatsApp group, mission venture, radio station, congregation, and crusade. African scholars not only have access to these living libraries but eyes to see and ears to hear the wonders of God in their own languages.


2. Global structures are inequitably (or iniquitously stacked) against African Christian reflection and publishing

Despite African Christianity’s explosive growth and numerical weight globally, the resources to research and publish on African Christianity are still in the global north. I offer three examples out of the many I have encountered:

  1. Hans Zell, the doyen of African publishing studies, suggests that in excess of 10 million volumes are donated to the African continent each year. It is a miracle how much, not how little, is published on the African continent in the face of this tsunami of free literature.
  2. Four go-to, multi-author titles on African Christianity have been published in the global north in the last six years. Most essays are authored by Africans, in contrast to the handful in their 1960s counterpart. Yet these volumes retail for an average of $200 and with few practical ways to return them to African institutions.
  3. Recently, a Ghanaian Christian scholar tried to get his institution’s innovative theology titles onto ‘global’ print-on-demand publishing platforms. He wanted the world beyond Africa to sample theology brewed in an African pot and receive sales revenue from global markets. One platform only allowed agreements to be signed by publishers in South Africa but no other African country. Another insisted sales revenue was sent to a European or North American bank account. With apologies to George Orwell, ‘All countries are equal, but some countries are more equal than others.’

We all have our own specific stories that point to the same trend: the theological knowledge ecosystem favours the global north over the south. Despite this, innovative African theological publishers have published African Christian thought on the continent, with resources and infrastructure that would stop their global-north equivalents in their tracks.


3. Collaboration and innovation rather than competition and replication must characterize African Christian publishing

Kyama Mugambi, the editorial manager of the African Theological Network Press (ATNP), laments that African theological publishing operates within confessional and denominational silos, even within the same country, as do global-north publishing ministries and funders. One close friend told me that in practice, theological institutions in his country compete for students, staff, international partnerships, and funding. Consequently, an intra-institutional theological publishing consortium, while welcomed in theory, fell apart in practice. We reproduce publication formats (the journal article, the essay, the monograph) and publication models from the global north that are falling apart there — European libraries baulk at a $260 price tag for a volume of essays on African Christianity. Instead, we need to come together and grapple with new formats and collaborative publishing models, exploiting the digital turn. Publishing, by its very nature, demands collaboration, both to bring the different streams of African Christian thought into conversation and to expand markets, which in African scholarly publishing are small and sell through slowly.


“These convictions are not just mine,” Crichton concludes, “they are shared by the four institutions that came together to form ATNP and to put them into practice. We welcome others to join us to make African Christian thought available from across Africa and beyond.”

Africa Speaks Community offers a platform where you can network with other players in the publishing industry and an online forum where important ideas and common publishing challenges are discussed.

author profile image

Africa Speaks

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

LittWorld 2022, Hungary: Stronger Together, Publishing Hope Beyond Crisis

author profile image
Article By Africa Speaks

It’s now down to 44 days before LittWord 2022, the Global Conference of Christian Publishing, which will take place in Siófok, Hungary, on 24 – 29 April 2022. Organised by Media Associates International (MAI) and titled ‘Stronger Together – Publishing Hope Beyond Crisis’, it is expected to bring together more than 200 Christian Communicators from around the world to gain fresh vision, creativity, and intensive training to make biblical truth accessible to readers today.

Men and women from 94 countries have participated in LittWorld since the conference began in 1986. Many Christian African writers and publishers trace the growth of their publishing journeys to these conferences. Many point to the Nairobi (2012) and Singapore (2018) conferences as turning points that led to the books, magazines and publishing houses they have since birthed.


We have now received the good news that the Covid-19 related visa restrictions to Hungary have been lifted, opening the door to those who had been held back from registering. The keynote speaker will be award-winning author Philip Yancey, whose books have sold more than 17 million copies in English and have been translated into more than 50 languages worldwide. On offer will be more than 40 workshops led by seasoned international professionals. The conference cost is $945 and $1,245 for single and double occupancy, respectively, covering the cost of five nights lodging, conference coffee/tea breaks, conference registration and materials. More details can be found on the MAI website here.

What an excellent and timely opportunity to join other publishing professionals, old and new, from around the world, in this long-awaited return to physical interaction to fellowship and learn together and be re-envisioned afresh for the task entrusted to us of sharing the good news through the written word.

author profile image

Africa Speaks

We are an international network of professionals committed to a flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa.

Annual Competition Spurs Writers in Uganda

author profile image
Article By Africa Speaks

The Annual writers’ competition is becoming a flagship activity of the Quiet Garden Publishing House in Uganda. The first one was held in 2021, and nine manuscripts were received. The award-winning book, the memoir Woven in Spirals by Rev. Canon Diana Nkesiga, was published by Quiet Garden as part of the prize. This exciting activity carried out in partnership with Tyndale House Publishers is currently open, and the winners for the current year will be announced in May 2022.

Rev. Diana Mirembe Nkesiga receiving her award


The publishing house was founded in 2016 by the Uganda Faith Writers Association (UFWA). The journey to a full-fledged publishing house can be said to have started twenty years before when Lilian Tindyebwa and Betty Kituyi, both prolific writers, met at FEMRITE, an Uganda Women Writers’ Association that promotes women writing in Uganda. They had both contributed stories that were published. Upon realising that they were both Christians, the question of necessity formed in their minds, “Why not show our identity as Christians who are writing?”

They went ahead to found the UFWA in the year 2009 with the desire to help other Christian Writers to write and also to contribute Christian content. The group started meeting once a month to write, encourage, and critique each other’s work. Their first writers’ training workshop was held in June 2010 under the eminent writer and trainer Lawrence Darmani with Media Associates International (MAI). The writers attended subsequent LittWorld conferences in Nairobi, Singapore and Ghana and grew in their craft. The next natural question was, where or who would publish their work?

The Christian publishing industry in Uganda was not well developed, and their work was not very welcome to general publishers. With the obvious gap in Christian publishing, Ramon Rocha, MAI Director of publisher development, threw the challenge to the group, “Why not start your own publishing house?” He offered much-needed support, convening a publishing workshop in 2015 and training this group of writers on best practices in Christian publishing.

In 2016, the first three titles published by the Quiet Garden Publishing House rolled off the presses in India. The publisher has released at least two new titles every year since, except 2021 (the covid year) when one book was published. After the first two years, all the printing is done in Uganda. Quiet Garden received start-up funds from a global partner that helped establish an office. UFWA has 18 members who meet regularly, and among other services, they offer manuscript editing to self-publishers, and the Wandiika online magazine is a forum to showcase writing coming out of the association

The UFWA and Quiet Garden Publishers continue to battle valiantly to grow Christian publishing and are not discouraged in the face of poorly written manuscripts. They acknowledge the challenges of mother tongue interference when Ugandan authors write in English. They do not yet have plans to publish in other languages and are focusing on building their training programmes. The Annual writing competition accepts original manuscripts with Christian themes written by Ugandan writers 18 years of age and above in the four categories of novels, biography, autobiography or inspirational. The aim is to draw out talented Christian writers in Uganda and empower them in their writing with cash prizes and publication of the winner’s work, and a writing workshop for all shortlisted writers.

“There is a need to encourage people to read for pleasure as well as for knowledge. People seem only to buy textbooks. There seems to be little disposable income available for other books after buying textbooks,” says Lilian Tindyebwa, the Executive Director of UFWA, a published author whose first book, A Recipe for Disaster, published by Fountain Publishers Kampala, has been used as a reader for secondary schools. She sees reading competitions as a way forward to improve the reading culture. “When people read and share what they read, they are encouraged, and these can be hosted to encourage young people, especially through the churches.”

There is a need to encourage people to read for pleasure as well as for knowledge.

UFWA is particularly proud of one of its members Precious Collette Kemigisha, first-place winner of LittWorld Writing Contest #2, in December 2021. They see a great need for training in writing and publishing – no writing courses are offered in local universities – people are mainly self-taught. The writers are interested in growing their readership beyond their country, and the top of their questions is how to market their books across borders beyond Uganda.

Africa Speaks brings together publishing professionals united in a common goal: to establish a viable and flourishing Christian publishing industry in Africa and grow into a thriving professional network. By joining the community, you will access online forums where such vital ideas and common publishing challenges are discussed in real-time.

author profile image

Africa Speaks

Africa Speaks’ mission is to help establish a strong Christian publishing industry in Africa

The Resilient Christian Publishers of Africa

author profile image
Article By Daniel Bourdanné

Imagine having to review and change the price tags on the books on sale every single day – manually? This is what a publishing industry player from Democratic Republic of Congo had to do because of inflation and currency fluctuations.


While the situation has since improved, it took Daniel Bourdanné several months to get 50,000 copies of the Gospel to 18 countries across French-speaking Africa. He had to rely on travellers, slipping a few books into their luggage, with no guarantee that the books would make it to their destination. The books were at the mercy of corrupt customs officials and even where the law provided for duty-free treatment of books, the corrupt officers would skilfully circumvent the law and extort payments.


These, and many other stories, illustrate the trying conditions under which actors of Christian publishing work. What would you do if you found books from your publishing company on sale on the black market? A little investigation by one such publisher revealed the printer they had contracted – sensing the book would sell well – had printed additional copies privately. While you could easily use such a printing press in the US or in Europe, you would have a hard time doing so in most African countries. Your quest for justice would be futile, especially if you are up against a state-owned printing press. They are far more powerful than you.

Resilience, perseverance, courage and sacrifice are some of the words that can be used to describe the current players in Africa’s publishing. These players, in their firm determination to serve through publishing, are the midwives of the region’s transition from orality to writing. Africa has an oral tradition going back thousands of years. The older people grew up listening to proverbs, oral and initiatory traditions. The elderly were walking libraries and reading was an ongoing, open activity. In the universe of African oral tradition, as Fulani language scholar, Amadou Hampâté Bâ, said, an old man who dies is a library burning.


“An old man who dies is a library burning.”

Amadou Hampâté Bâ

Modern education and its tradition of books brought a shift. The transition to writing is still in progress. Reading, for example, is done in foreign languages – often in the colonizer’s language. These languages are still perceived in our subconscious as the language of might. Though we use them, in our subconscious it feels as though we were still cloaked in our past defeats. Books are usually not available, accessible, and affordable. Even for those who want to read, it is often hard to find books locally, especially if they do not speak English

African publishers who work under very trying circumstances must therefore encourage each other. Mutual encouragement is a step on the path to success as we are not in the same position as the Western countries which have a long-standing tradition to build on: a tradition of entrepreneurship, a business culture, and a culture of competition.

Many may view the task of developing the Christian publishing industry as a battle of the Israelites against the giant Goliath – a hopeless endeavor – but there are lessons for us in the victory God enabled David to achieve. It can be argued that this victory was actually through a change in perspective – a paradigm shift – that David introduced. Up and till until then, the prevailing military paradigm held that to win wars, you needed mighty warriors, exemplified by Goliath in terms of his height (a giant), outfit, armor, war strategy and experience. Everyone believed in that paradigm, beginning with the Philistines themselves. The Israelites had no giant in their ranks to face Goliath.

David was young. He didn’t stand as tall as Goliath. He didn’t have Goliath’s armor. And even if someone were to loan him such armor, it would be too heavy for him to wear. His new paradigm was a sling fight. He picked five stones,four of which he did not need, because just one proved to be enough.

With a change in paradigm, those in publishing must therefore avoid shortcuts, quick and reductionist conclusions, or often harsh judgments which do nothing to encourage but rather discourage those who are pioneering the Christian publishing industry. There is a need to pursue efforts to promote widespread reading and writing to win the challenge of establishing a reading culture.

“We must therefore avoid shortcuts, quick and reductionist conclusions,
or often harsh judgments which do nothing to encourage but rather discourage
those who are pioneering the Christian publishing industry in Africa”

The Christian publishing revolution will serve our youthful, often idle population. These youths are looking up to us for tools to spark a transformation. The publishing revolution will also serve the potential presidents and innovators (who are the children living in our slums); and women (church members who are being manipulated by pastors), who though illiterate, are feeding Africa. Africa has no money to offer the West, and the West does not need our immigrants. The writings of Africa can at least make the West smile again and perhaps restore what Amadou Hampâté Bâ called “a human dimension which is being eroded by modern technology”. They can offer an understanding of the practical meaning and real-life testimonies of certain Christian values and virtues such as suffering and perseverance. Yes, the West also needs to hear Africa’s message. In fact, so does the whole world.

author profile image

Daniel Bourdanné

Daniel Bourdanné has been involved in student ministry for more than 20 years, having been on staff with IFES in Francophone Africa as regional secretary, responsible for overseeing IFES ministry across the region’s 20 countries, before being appointed to his current global leadership role.