As some of our interviews with writers and publishers in the first two parts of the “Made in Africa” series have revealed, there is a rise in online platforms for publishing and consuming literature from Africa. Indeed, as some commentators, for example the Nigerian-American blogger and writer Ikhide Ikheloa, have argued, there is a bigger population consuming literary digital platforms than those patronising print literary products.

Ikheloa’s declaration that the book as we know it, the hardcover and paperback, is dead, may not be the most accurate statement he has ever made but there is indeed some truth to the fact that digital literatures are not only becoming increasingly relevant but are also increasingly accessible. Our concern is the production and consumption of literature on the continent, so in this third part of the “Made in Africa” series we talk to online publishers. In this we highlight seven online platforms based in Nigeria, Uganda, Botswana, Cameroon, Ghana and Kenya.

Dami Ajayi’s Saraba Magazine and the Ile-Ife digital literary revolution

2013 Cover of Saraba Magazine's "The Art Issue", available for download online. Image, Sarabamag.com.
2013 Cover of Saraba Magazine’s “The Art Issue”, available for download online. Image: Sarabamag.com.

Started by two university students, Emmanuel Iduma and Dami Ajayi, some seven years ago, Saraba has published some of the most exciting writers in contemporary African literature. Kenyan writers Okwiri Oduor, Keguro Macharia, and Clifton Gachagua; Zimbabwean Novuyo Rosa Tshuma; the Nigerians Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, Chika Unigwe, Ukamaka Olisakwe and Elnathan John, among others, have all been published by the periodical. Saraba publishes short fiction, non-fiction, photography and poetry in their quarterly magazine, and they have also published independent poetry chapbooks. They call for submissions four times a year around specific themes. Read the latest Saraba call for submissions here, for entries on the theme of crime. We shall talk to Dami Ajayi in this third part of the “Made in Africa” series.

Nyana Kakoma and sooo many Ugandan stories

Sooo Many Stories, featuring Ugandan writing. Image: soomanystories.ug
Sooo Many Stories, featuring Ugandan writing. Image: soomanystories.ug

Uganda has had a beautiful but short-lived history of literary periodicals, having been the home of the Rajat Noegy-founded Transition magazine in the 60s, when African literature in English began to flourish. Nyana Kakoma’s Sooo Many Stories was started in 2014 and as it celebrates one year, Sooo Many Stories looks set to become the Ugandan footprint in the digital landscape. SmsUg, as Kakoma calls her platform, publishes short fiction, poetry and nonfiction centering on Uganda. She has published interviews, excerpts of longer works, original short fiction, opinions, features, and she writes a weekly column of literary news. Prior to starting SmsUg, Kakoma was a writer, journalist and a communications expert. In SmsUg, she has provided a permanent and accessible platform for Ugandan writers and readers. We talk to her about the focus of SmsUg and digital literature generally. If you are a Ugandan writer, or have literary content about Uganda, check out SmsUg’s submissions guidelines here.

Speaking up for Ghana, Nana-ama Kyerematen’s Afridiaspora

For Ghana-born Nana-ama Kyerematen, digital publishing is the first step, alongside literary events management, to promoting and amplifying African literature. Afridiaspora, the platform she set up, has so far published interviews, flash and short fiction, features and other literary content and has curated African literary events in New York. She is working on curating a literary and book festival in Accra, focusing on young and emerging writers. Afridiaspora is always on the lookout for contributors. Details here.

Derek Workman’s Kalahari Review and The New Yorker inspiration

The Kalahari Review's mascot, Igby. "To us Igby represents everything we want The Kalahari Review to be - smart, sophisticated, fun and distinctly African." Image: kalaharireview.com
The Kalahari Review’s mascot, Igby. “To us Igby represents everything we want The Kalahari Review to be – smart, sophisticated, fun and distinctly African.” Image: kalaharireview.com

Derek Workman says his love for well-written long-form journalism and literary periodicals is the only reason he started The Kalahari Review. He says that KR is firmly digital and rules out any chance of turning into a print publication. The website accepts submissions from all over Africa and the diaspora, and has an open submission window all the time. Based in Botswana, the website’s first supporter was Motswana writer Lauri Kubuitsile. Since its founding, KR has published over fifty African writers. See more about their submissions process here.

From the multilingual Cameroon, Bakwa Magazine

Image: bakwamagazine.com
Image: bakwamagazine.com

Cameroon is probably the first African country to be simultaneously Francophone and Anglophone. Despite the fact that the Anglophone region is not as big as the Francophone region, it is remarkable that the country has two official languages. Compared to the French speaking literary scene, the English speaking literary scene is not as vibrant, but you will hear of Bakwa Magazine if you ask. Bakwa, inspired by Cape Town’s Chimurenga Magazine and Nairobi’s Kwani, publishes literary criticism, reportage, interviews, poetry and short fiction. It has published work by critics Emmanuel Iduma and Moses Serubiri, among others. We talk to its founder about Cameroon’s contribution to the Africa digital landscape. For information about submissions to the magazine, click here

Ainehi Edoro’s Brittle Paper turns writers into celebrities

Image: brittlepaper.com
Image: brittlepaper.com

What does novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie eat when she is bored? What is the craziest thing in so and so’s newest novel? Why have African writers started to write excellent sex scenes? Which African writer swore never to wear a neck-tie at reading events? Ainehi Edoro, the editor and founder of Brittle Paper, looks out for the most interesting and intriguing facts and sleaze about African writers and writing that will make you go and buy an African book. An academic, Edoro is passionate about African literature and her blog is one of the most read sites about African Literature. Brittle Paper makes African literature look and feel cool. It is definitely an essential part of a growing literary culture on and off the continent. Nowadays, Brittle Paper publishes more than news, interviews, reviews and reportage. Nigerian writer Obinna Udenwe’s has had several series of his work published on the site, including a recent one about church erotica. Find out more about Brittle Paper here.

Kenya-based Jalada is a trend-setter in digital African Literary publishing

The cover of Jalada's first anthology, 00. Image: jalada.org.
The cover of Jalada’s first anthology, 00. Image: jalada.org.

Participants from a Granta-Kwani workshop, mainly Kenyan writers, decided to start a writers’ collective to pursue writing and publishing ambitions together. The collective immediately embarked on publishing themed anthologies, the first one on insanity. They went on to publish an anthology on sex, followed by one on Afrofuturism. Currently they are looking for submissions on Language. Prominent writers Clifton Gachagua (Sillerman Prize winner) and Okwiri Oduor (Caine Prize winner) are members of the collective. Jalada is one of the fastest growing entities that, managed effectively, will continue to shape African literary trends. We talked with Managing Editor, Moses Kilolo, in the second part of the series. Find the interview here.