Forex crunch chokes book industry


ZIMBABWE International Book Fair (ZIBF) executive board chairperson Jasper Maenzanise yesterday said the foreign currency shortages afflicting the country have not spared the ailing book industry which relies on imported raw materials.


Addressing the ZIBF indaba, Maenzanise said foreign currency shortages have negatively impacted the industry, which largely relies on imported paper and inks.

“The issue of forex is another problem that has negatively impacted the industry. Printers are in short supply of paper and ink and they have to import it, but unfortunately, no forex allocation is coming our way,” he said.

Maenzanise said the book now had to compete with other basic necessities like food, which are often prioritised.

“The book industry is faced with a lot of problems that include copyright infringement, but most importantly, people are not buying books because of the harsh economic problems prevailing in the country. The book industry is not spared because people’s incomes have been eroded,” he said.

Prolific writer and publisher Ignatius Mabasa told the same indaba that writers often experience frustrating bureaucratic bottlenecks when dealing with government ministries such as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

“Another hindrance is government bureaucracy that frustrates writers’ efforts to contribute to local education content. You approach ministry officials who have a [negative] attitude because you highlight the problems of the people,” he said.

Cheela Chilala, an academic with the University of Zambia, said although the writing of books can be a stream of income, it was a not-for-profit endeavour.

Local writer Mzana Mthimkhulu concurred, describing writing as “a labour of love” requiring intrinsic motivation.
A research assistant with the University of Zimbabwe, Farasten Muzavazi, presented a paper focusing on the impact of social media on traditional reading patterns.

ZIBF chairperson Ruby Magosvongwe hailed the increase in the number of international presenters at this year’s indaba, which included those from Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya.

She said the indaba continued to play a key role at ZIBF: “The Indaba remains an open learning forum for all stakeholders.”

The indaba will be followed by a free exhibition open to the public from Thursday to Saturday, in which schools and book industry stakeholders are expected to participate. The fair is running under the theme The Book: Creating the Future.


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