Breaking the Wall of Communist-Africa through Book Fairs – Adedayo Thomas



Almost everyone in Africa understands the principles of a free society if briefed. However, it is not practiced by the ruling elites because if implemented they become powerless. This has largely contributed to low level of development within the continent since its independence. The independent fighters made their first mistakes when the socio-political and economic structure was distorted with the adoption of a welfare state, which was put in place as the alternative to colonial practice. This destroyed the entrepreneurial spirit that characterized the pre-colonial period in the exchange for reliance on the government as the solution to economic problems.


This ultimately bred big governments and was used by the elites as one of the ploys to remain in power. The outcome of course was noticeable as the society and the public structures left by colonialists became dysfunctional and characterized by the huge budget for recurrent expenditure at the expense of capital projects.


The first target was education.  Governments believed in a “government can do all things” perspective. Education from primary school to the university level was made free. This provision was made the exclusive function of government. The younger ones were drifted to Russia for further studies. When they returned, they became the official mouthpiece of socialist ideas and went on to insert that into schools’ curriculum. This became the teaching fabrics in the universities with libraries stocked completely with communist materials which now explains why socialist scholars are not in short supply in African societies, including universities.


Africa was left with few thinkers and no political will to stand up to the dictatorship socialists and ruling elites. This change in new level of development thinking started gaining currency about a decade ago when various individuals in many countries started challenging the status quo and explaining that relying on government handouts will aggravate poverty. These individuals include thinkers who started the rediscovery of true pre-colonial entrepreneurship zeal.


These new entrepreneurial Africans are making minimal impact in the policy sector but, nevertheless, their effect is remarkable. Government policies are seen to be changing at a slow rate and they are not transparent enough for a full-blown market economy. Ideas have consequences. Taking free market ideas to universities to change the mindset of the growing number of youths for constructive development through free market capitalism has also yielded fruit but with some challenges. The understanding of the need for a free society for Africa's development despite several challenges is fast growing in the universities largely in part as a result of activities of African Liberty Students Organization (ALSO). Today, there are liberty clubs chapters in schools in Uganda, Nigeria, Tanzania,  Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Mozambique.


It is recognized that free market ideas would not gain root without a solid reference (books) after policy discussions, outreaches to universities and media presentation. There is dearth of libertarian books,  which often result in little understanding of the concept by those who accepted the ideas for further advocacies and those willing to be mentally liberated. Almost hundred percent of the books you will come across during major book fairs in Africa are socialist/communist based hence the need for the participation of at books fairs in Africa. University libraries are full of absolute communist books. To the credit of AfricanLiberty and her parent body-Atlas Network, four major important book-fairs in Africa have been attended in Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and Zimbabwe since 2010.  It has been through book fairs that these libertarian books have been highlighted and we have been able to meet would-be converts.


It is worthy of note to mention the improvement witnessed so far in 2013 with book fairs in Kenya and Zimbabwe. For instance, the participation in the Kenya book fair between September 25-29 was in collaboration with Moi University, Kenya. Although the number of visitors was impressive, the killings in Westgate Supermarket in Kenya prevented many would-be participants from attending. One may ask why. This is because the venue of the book fair was very close to Sarit Centre Mall.


With over 135 scholars and students, daily discussion was centered on several issues such as why the market must not be regulated and the need for a comprehensive and transparent deregulation of the public sector. As expected, several derogatory comments were made by some socialist scholars. It is worthy of note that with constructive and practical arguments used to defuse whatever myopic views were expressed, some of them ended up changing stand and became fans of free market.  Interestingly, students were more disposed to learning and free to ask questions after our response to the communist criticism. 


The book fair provided us the unique opportunity to meet policy makers, politicians, the media  and of course, lecturers and students from over 15 different universities. Because of books that were contained in the Network for a Free Society (NFS) CD most scholars begged to have some titles and all university students who visited got free copies.


The highlight of the fair was the visitation of the Deputy Vice Chancellor of Moi University who genuinely commended and appreciated our collaboration and sought a donation of books to the library. A reputable Kenyan Television aired this live. The book fair ended with the donation of 70 different book titles to the Moi University library. Further discussions are now on-going with a number of institutions who visited for collaboration. Several students are setting up liberty clubs in their schools.


From Kenya to Zimbabwe International Book fairs ran from September 30 through Oct 5, 2013. Considering the weight of the books (127kg), the customs at Harare airport insisted the books titles must be seen before I was allowed entry. Before the search, I was asked of the receipt I paid to the airline for my 4 bags, I knew it was not part of their business but I remained humble, polite and playful and I replied “I paid nothing” and that led them to weigh my bags and eventually I was led to the search room. Tom G. Palmer's book Realizing Freedom would have probably got me into troubles but fortunately, when asked about the book, I misinterpreted the content to be in support of African government against the American colonialists, and they quickly bought into my explanation.


The first day of the book fair was dedicated to presenting papers at a conference tagged “Ndaba”. This conference was a gathering of intellectuals, writers and publishers from all walks of life within Africa and abroad. After the presentation of a paper in support of cultural preservation, I stood up and demanded to know why some culture should be preserved when the owners can make money from it and better their life in the face of abject poverty. Without obeying the conference protocol, a Professor stood up in defense of the preservation even in the face of death caused by poverty. He ended up by regretting the fact that he has no power if he did, he would have sent me to jail for life for being pro-west in my argument. This comment made me popular and eventually increased the visitor patronage to the African Liberty booth demanding to know more within the week long fair.


Rejoice Ngwenya came to my rescue when the number of visitors to the stand became too much. Media coverage became inevitable. Interviews by BBC were aired live and an hour debate at Star FM radio station with the Communists Association of Zimbabwe followed. The Zimbabwe journalists hosted me at the Media Centre to clarify on our stand on free market economy. The week was rounded off with a visitation to the Africa Women's University where we met the school authority and donated over 50   books.


Throughout the time the fair lasted, more than 400 visitors from different backgrounds engaged us in discussions. The NFS CD was given to some scholars and all students who visited. For some we deemed comfortable enough to afford purchase, some titles and CD were sold. Another successful outing but more needs to be done. It can therefore be said that another very impressive and great channel of reaching our target audience is by participating in book fairs.


Adedayo Thomas is the Director of Outreach and Publisher, AfricanLiberty.Org

[photo: The Nation Newspaper]

Adedayo Thomas shares experience on the road