By Steven Godfrey Mkweteza
Book Publishers Association of Malawi (BPAM) says it is in a state of collapse due to the effects of Covid-19 pandemic which has entirely paralyzed the association’s operations.
President for the association, Maureen Masamba, pointed out the challenges in her presentation during a consultative meeting on response for covid-19 stakeholders in the creative industries held in Blantyre.
Masamba said with schools closed, book sales are non-existent and therefore the publishers have problems funding theiroperations obligations such as salaries for staff and payments to outsourced works like illustrators and designers.
“Our core source of income is book sales. However, publishers through this association have been unable to hold its annual school book fairs which are a source of revenue,” she said, adding that the association has also been unable to conduct its national annual book festivals.
Masamba said in the long run, the development would contribute to dwindling education standards since most schools rely on the textbooks that the publishers produce.
Among others, Masamba appealed to government to support the publishers with a bailout package to enable them to survive the economic onslaught brought by the Covid-19 pandemic through the procurement of books that were already published.
Masamba further proposed to government to provide funds to bankroll the projects of developing content for the booklets, pamphlets, finance the distribution of the developed materials and fund the digitization and distribution of the available readers.
“As publishers, we would not want to request a mere handout, but an injection of funds in our existing and developing activities for our survival. We play a very big role in complementing governments effort in achieving quality education, the more reason that indigenous publishing houses should not go under but be supported to be up and running after this pandemic,” said Masamba.
However, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Wildlife Dr Michael Usi urged the creators to explore more creative ways of keeping people connected during the Covid-19 pandemic instead of relying on government alone.
Usi further underscored the need for the creative industry to understand the terms and reference between two parties.
According to the minister’s perspective, the creative industry has suffered in the past years because of leadership problems.
“When we are talking about government and the creative industry we should also first understand the relationship or the terms of reference to justify or guide against one another. There should be a common agenda between the two parties,” said Usi.
In another development, Usi disclosed that his ministry has offered office space for the secretariats of national arts associations at the refurbished Blantyre cultural centre (BCC), formerly the French cultural centre.
He said his ministry was moved by the outcry from the rights bodies on the unavailability of unified office space for their activities just like what others do in other countries.
The southern region interaction meeting whose objective was to consult leaders of national arts association on viable strategies that can be used to mitigate against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for the creative industry, among others, drew participants from book writers, dramatists, musicians, visual artists and photographers.
BPAM is an association made of indigenous publishers working in Malawi and was formed in 1997.
The association has a total of 15 publishing houses whose main objective is to represent and safeguard the interests of the publishers with stakeholders.