Meet Mutesi Gasana, a Rwandan publisher soaked into bookselling, publishing projects, and campaigns on reading culture
July 26, 2023
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Mutesi Gasana is a Rwandan author and entrepreneur. She is the founder of Ubuntu Publishers Ltd and Arise Education. Mutesi has also invested in the education of children and promotes reading culture by creating and promoting reliable local stories for children.

"For the last 13 years in publishing, I have been involved in the daily art of selling books, producing children's books, and much more in educating communities on the culture of writing and reading books. My daily schedule is to leverage every opportunity to talk about books through Arise Education and Ubuntu Publishers, and the many hats I wear through publishing groups and women's groups on educating my community on the importance of reading...leading them to invest in purchasing local content, especially culturally contextualized content."

"The African book market is a virgin market with exciting and rich storytelling cultures. It is a market that the world can draw a lot of lessons from; diverse genres from fiction and non-fiction. My excitement stems from the fact that storytelling has been a vessel for preserving our memories and cultural values from ancient storytellers to modernized written stories. We have many different dialects and languages with different cultural contexts across Africa that can be shared in other languages with the world." 

“My typical day is always kickstarted by a prayer to connect with the spiritual world; followed by a little brain exercise or physical exercise and then I am soaked into bookselling, publishing projects, or even campaigns on reading. I am involved a lot in working with others through publishing associations, bookseller’s associations, and other partners on promoting the reading and writing culture in the communities. I also at least make weekly connections to the international markets to know what others globally are doing so sites like International Publishers Association (IPA), booklist, and book reviews to know the trends in the book market, I recently gained interest in the Arab market.”

“Collaboration is the key to success, especially in an industry that has a lot to offer with limited resources. I am very convinced that working together as African book collectives and publishers will birth qualitative and quantitative outcomes that benefit the entire publishing community in Africa and beyond. Africa stands a chance to collaborate and work with international publishers in taking African content to the world but a lot of learning from the rest of the world on how to build strong systems and channels of distribution across the globe.”

“The world is also turning its eyes to Africa this time for collaborations in many areas from Silicon Valley to agricultural transformations and publishing will not be left behind, so joining with the world to share content should be one of the major collaborations. So I see collaborations on publishing projects, translations, and the establishment of one market where the world shares content with respect and collaborative spirit.”

“Digital publishing definitely is taking the world by storm and that’s the way to go; it will facilitate the publishing community to share in the rich experiences and cultures without moving an inch. I am looking at translation rights sharing to minimize costs and resources in the production of a book.”

“Participating in book fairs is overwhelming for first-timers, especially from Africa. It would be ideal to read about the book fair you are participating in and understand the market, liaise with the rights buyers to pitch your books, identify your niche market, make catalogs for rights selling, and plan meetings in advance.”

“My favorite authors and books really depend on what I am looking for at the time; for fiction authors, I mostly read African authors like Chinua Achebe, Ngugi Wa Thiong'o, Chimamanda Ngozi, and Maya Angelou. My other favorite books are The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho with many more authors who inspire me daily. I read a lot of books with both local and international content.”

“I have grown fond of two book fairs; the Bologna Book Fair which was my first international book fair to attend and exposed me to the best children's collection under one roof. The rights selling and the diversity of the children's literature and resources were eye-opening for me. My second was the Sharjah Book Fair which blew me with the Arabic literature which I had no information about. I loved the fact that their literature is much based on their culture and I think as an African I was so challenged to remain authentic in my literary creations.”

“My advice to young publishers at the beginning of their career is to take every opportunity by the horn; learn and learn more about this hidden gem called publishing; the techniques, and the dos of publishing. Be a continuous and focused learner.”

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