31 July 2017

SBIAF event was held at Blackwell’s in Edinburgh and chaired by the University’s Dean for Africa, Dr Ola Uduku.
Scottish Business in Africa Forum (SBIAF) Explores Publishing and Translation in Africa

The Scottish Business in Africa Forum (SBIAF) is now into its second year and was delighted to host our recent July forum on the topic of creative industries, publishing, and translating in Africa. Blackwell’s generously hosted the event at their ideal Edinburgh venue and it brought together leading academics, publishers, authors and businesses who are looking to develop international connections. Leading guest speakers included Louise Umutoni, Abdulai Silá and Jethro Soutar. The experienced chair for the event was the University’s Dean for Africa, Dr Ola Uduku.

The event comprised part of the Africa Writes Festival – an annual celebration of contemporary literature from Africa and the diaspora and hosted by the Royal African Society. Every year, Africa Writes showcases established and emerging talent from the African continent and its diaspora in what is now the UK’s biggest celebration of contemporary African writing. The festival features book launches, readings, author appearances, panel discussions, youth and children’s workshops, and other activities.

SBIAF attendees in Blackwell's

Abdulai Silá gave an overview of his book, the story of its development, his motivation for writing and his relationship with his translator (Jethro Soutar). As a passionate and patriotic Guinea-Bissauan, his book The Ultimate Tragedy is a tale of love and emerging political awareness in an Africa beginning to challenge Portuguese colonial rule. Jethro Soutar, translator of Spanish and Portuguese literature and co-founder of Ragpicker Press and Editor of Dedalus Africa, then did a reading from The Ultimate Tragedy and talked about his experiences of translating works from across Africa – including the finesse involved in telling an accurate story.

Finally, Louise Umutoni, a Rwandan publisher, communications expert and writer, spoke about the publishing landscape in Africa and the development of the Huza Prize. The logistics of publishing and printing were also explored and she explained how there is such a small profit margin in the sector, which means it is difficult to ignore the cheapest quotes from service providers. The audience and other guest speakers agreed with her when she said it would be great to have more centralised and unified services within the African publishing space.

After illuminating conversation, the audience enjoyed further discussion at a drinks reception as well as some personalised book signings. We hope to host a similar pop-up event next year and it would be great to see you there.

About the speakers

Louise Umutoni

Louise Umutoni is a Rwandan publisher, communications expert and writer. She is a University of Oxford alumnus and the founder of Huza Press, a Rwandan-based publishing press devoted to supporting African literary craftsmanship. Huza Press runs Rwanda’s biggest prize for fiction.

Louise started her career as a journalist and worked as a regular reporter and contributor for several newspapers and magazines, such as the Gazette and Ottawa Citizen in Canada, The New Times Rwanda and Enterprise Magazine. She also worked in the legal field before returning to Rwanda to create the country’s first women’s writing group, Andika Ma and eventually established Huza Press.

Louise is passionate about knowledge creation and dissemination in Africa. She has written academically on National Liberation Movements in Africa and women’s political inclusion. Her work was selected for the Winihin-Jemide grant and Aegis Trust research grant. She is currently working on a book that looks at the role of women in National Liberation Movements in Rwanda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya.

Abdulai Silá

Abdulai Silá was born in 1958 in Catió, Guinea Bissau. He moved to the capital, Bissau, to complete his school studies and then to Dresden, Germany, to complete a degree in Power Engineering. He currently lives in Bissau and combines telecommunications work with writing. He is the author of four novels, A Última Tragédia, Eterna Paixão [Eternal Passion], Mistida [Mixed] and Memórias [Mantic Memories], all of which deal with Bissau-Guinean culture and history. He is the co-founder of the publisher Ku Si Mon Editora and he has also written a play, As Orações de Mansat [Mansat’s Prayers], a Bissau-Guinean Macbeth.

Jethro Soutar

Jethro Soutar is a translator of Spanish and Portuguese. His translations include two novels by Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel of Equatorial Guinea: By Night the Mountain Burns, shortlisted for the 2015 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Gurugu Pledge, forthcoming from And Other Stories. His translation of The Ultimate Tragedy by Abdulai Silá is the first novel from Guinea-Bissau to be made available in English. He is a co-founder of Ragpicker Press and Editor of Dedalus Africa.