| March 16, 2012

We Love Kenyan Publishers


With Susan from Jacaranda– outside the Nairobi National Museum

I just returned from a whirlwind four day trip to Nairobi; my mission to partner with more Kenyan publishers and get more great local books for Worldreader students.

On the relaxing Swiss Air flight out, in between sobbing over “The Descendants” and giggling over “Tower Heist”, I jotted down my goals for the trip.  I decided that if I could sign two new publishers and get 100 new e-books, the trip would have been a huge success. This goal was not set lightly.  I knew what it was to bang on local publishers’ doors and ask for their books.  I’d done it in Ghana, and I’d done it a year ago in Kenya – it had never been an easy task.  But what I grossly underestimated was the power of what Worldreader had accomplished over the past year – and how much easier that was going to make things for me.

A year ago when Colin and I sat across from Kenyan publishers, Worldreader had been working for only 6 months in Ghana – and we had yet to launch our program in Kenya.  We had big ideas of where we were going – but no real solid evidence that our grand scheme was going to work.  Now, a year later, I’m was about to sit across from publishers with a wealth of stories, pictures, videos and hard data proving success from 18 months in Ghana, almost 1 year in Kenya, a project that just launched in Uganda and a second project in Kenya launching next week.  Let’s just say that kind of momentum grabs people’s attention.

With John from Phoenix

Over the four days I met with the Managing Directors of some of Kenya’s largest educational publishers including the Jomo Kenyatta Foundation, and Moran (formally Macmillan).  I met with the Chairman of the Kenya Publisher’s Association, Lawrence Njagi, who is also Managing Director of Mountain Top Publishers. I had Lawrence from “hello” – he’s a visionary who is now an important ally.  I had breakfast with John Mwazemba, CEO of Phoenix Publishers (and young enough to be my son!)  And I finally had the immense pleasure of meeting Angela Wachuka, Executive Director of the widely acclaimed Kwani Trust.

Out of the 7 new publishers I met, I got an immediate “yes” from 6, resulting in around 160 new ebooks with many more to follow.  Numbers aside—it was a meeting of minds.   In every case, our vision and passion is shared and thanks to these partners our capacity for changing the world increases a hundred-fold.

I also got to spend time with our current publishing partners.  Susan Carvalho, head of the super creative boutique Jacaranda Designs, and I had a delicious BBQ chicken lunch at the Nairobi National Museum.  I spent 3 hours with Janet Njoroge, MD of Longhorn and her forward thinking team.  And I finally got to meet Aleya Jamal and the Story Moja gang.  These pioneering publishers have a special place in my heart– even a year ago, they saw the potential of our vision and joined us.

On the trip home, which was the antithesis of the relaxing Swiss flight out (more on this in a sec.), I measured the success of the trip.  The math goes something like this: 7 new publishers + 3 super passionate current publishers + 160 new e-books!  But, wait, more numbers: 1 missed flight – 2 hour airport blackout – 3 declined credit cards -1 vintage 1970s Turkish Air Airbus departing at 4 am = MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!