In January 2023, the third batch of the Editing Course will begin at the CLEF Professional Training Center, Yaoundé, Cameroon, in collaboration with Africa Book Development Foundation (ABDF) and its training department, the African Book Institute.
The Editing Course is one of many activities carried out by CLEF Ministries (Christian Literature and Education Foundation), an action-oriented, non-governmental, non-profit organization that seeks to initiate projects and facilitate interfaith exchanges and cooperation between Christians and churches in Cameroon.
CLEF Ministries aims to promote understanding and cooperation among Christians of all denominations by undertaking development projects for the common good, and to promote Christian literature through the production and distribution of Christian literature and other support materials.
The beginning of the CLEF Ministries
“The idea to start a ministry came from my wife and myself, in order to evangelize through her music and my activities in distributing and publishing of Christian literature,” said Mr. Buma Kor Dickson, founder and executive secretary of CLEF Ministries. Mrs. Buma-Kor Claudia, known by her artist’s name, Aunty CLO, is a gospel singer who has to date 7 albums of Christian music to her credit, most of which can be found on YouTube.
Mr. Buma Kor Dickson is a Publisher and Book Development Consultant in Yaoundé, Cameroon. He conducts writing and publishing training workshops and lectures at the Advanced School of Mass Communication of the University of Yaoundé I, the University of Buea, and the Cameroon Christian University in Bali, Bamenda, North-West Region of Cameroon. Previously, he was the Operations Manager for Oxford University Press, UK, in Cameroon, and was in charge of publishing training programmes at the UNESCO Centre for Book Promotion in Africa (CREPLA).
Mr. Buma Kor is also a trainer with Media Associates International (MAI) and formerly APNET, the African Publishers Network. With the support and encouragement of MAI, CLEF Ministries organized the first seminar of Christian writers in Cameroon in March 2020 at the Presbyterian Church Hall (PCC) of Bastos in Yaoundé, followed by an online conference in 2021. Following these seminars, a forum of Christian writers from Cameroon was created, and the first joint project accomplished was the writing of a collection of articles on “What God has taught us through the COVID-19 health crisis”.
CLEF Ministries in book publishing and distribution
One of the mandates of CLEF Ministries is to publish, produce and distribute Christian literature and other materials for education and general reading. Books produced and published by CLEF include:
The Family Prayer by Rev. Dr. Michael Bame Bame (1982) – A reflection on the Lord’s Prayer and what each phrase means to encourage us pattern our own prayers accordingly.
In Defense of the Cross by Buma Kor (Elder) – collection of sermons encouraging Christian growth and understanding of the Gospels of Jesus Christ.
Revival Palava by Buma Kor (Elder) – A narrative on the revivals that took place in Cameroon during the 1970s and 1980s, one by Dr. Zacharia Fomum and the other by Rev. Dr. Bame Bame.
CLEF flagship publication has been Morning Glory – a non-denominational daily meditation for Christian living, edited by Mr. Buma Kor and written by various pastors and Christians; published also in French and distributed through various churches in Cameroon.
“For some time now, cost of printing regularly forced us to stop printing the hard copy,” says Mr. Buma Kor. “Now in its seventeenth year, it’s being published online through Facebook and WhatsApp by free subscription.”
Prior to Morning Glory, CLEF had also published and distributed in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, as well as in Douala, Bafoussam and Yaoundé, the weekly Christian Times newspaper, which stopped at the 10th issue, for financial reasons. However, it is hoped to be relaunched in the years ahead, for its existence is still relevant.
As for the distribution of CLEF books, it is done through existing bookstores, secular and Christian, throughout the country, by obtaining the books at the distributor’s price and selling them at wholesale to bookstores, especially Bibles and other books of Christian literature from foreign publishers. In some cases, notably for Christian Times and Morning Glory, they were distributed through churches, before church services began and immediately after the service.
CLEF strategies to meet the challenges of Christian publishing in Cameroon
The challenges faced by Christian publishers are numerous, as Mr. Buma Kor notes in these words: “I must say that there are challenges in publishing at all levels of the process – from creation, printing to the marketing of books. How publishers in Cameroon, talk less of Africa, manage to survive in a hostile situation and continue to get on is evidence of passion, dedication and the love for the profession. It’s not the money but, especially for Christian literature, the passion.”
One of the challenges is that of authorship. It is difficult to obtain good manuscripts and find good publishers that could help authors produce publishable material. “In my own case, I often did the editing myself after acquiring what, I may say, is a good manuscript,” says M. Buma Kor. The training of writers and editors is still a far cry in Cameroon. For this reason, the CLEF Professional Training Center has been organizing training workshops for publishers for several years to reduce the manpower deficit in the publishing industry. This September 2022, the combined two batches wrote the National Qualifying exams supervised by the Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training. The third batch is on their way to begin their studies in January 2023. Next year also, translation and conference interpretation at GCE A levels/BAC and first-degree levels will be introduced.
To provide a more global solution to the problems encountered by publishers, Mr. Buma Kor advocates for the putting in place by governments in respective African countries, National Book and Reading Policies (NBRP) and National Book Development Councils (NBDC) as instruments for the propagation, training and development of personnel of the African book industry. “UNESCO has been concerned that these measures be put in place since the 1960s to the 1980s and now, it is the African Union and ADEA (the Association for the Development of Education in Africa) and partners that is coming up with the AU Continental Framework for National Book and Reading Policies in Africa. We hope this sees the light soon,” says Mr. Buma Kor.