Kenya: Local Investor Buys Publishing Firm

UK publisher Macmillan has sold its Kenyan unit, marking the latest case of divestment from the local market by a foreign firm in the face of stiff competition.

Mr David Muita, who has been the managing director at Macmillan since 1990, bought the firm from its UK parent company at a cost estimated at Sh200 million, raising his stake to 97 per cent.

Following the sale, the firm will re-brand and trade as Moran Publishers.

Mr Moody Awori, a former vice president, is the chairman of Moran and holds a three per cent stake

The advent of the indigenous 8-4-4 system of education in 1985 and the opening up of the publishing sector have made it difficult for foreign publishers to compete with local firms.

Other foreign publishers that have been bought out by local investors after finding the going tough are Longman and Heinemann.

Oxford University Press East Africa remains the only fully foreign-owned publisher in Kenya.

After a decades-long presence, Longman left the Kenyan market in the 1990s as a section of its owners broke off to set up Longhorn Kenya Ltd.

Longman books, however, re-entered the local market from South Africa at the turn of the millennium as an imprint of Pearson Education.

“The publishing sector has seen increased competition with the entry of more local players,” Prof Lucas Othuon, a lecturer at the department of Education, Maseno University, said.

“Foreign publishers are, therefore, moving to new markets where they can compete better, leaving the Kenyan market to local players, who have gained deeper local knowledge and skills over the years,” he said.

The publishing sector has about 15 active companies, including state owned Jomo Kenyatta Foundation and Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), with a total of 100 registered firms.

The industry sells books worth over Sh3 billion per year.

The government’s introduction of free primary education and subsidy of secondary education has made it the single biggest buyer of text books.

Annually, the State spends Sh1,056 and Sh3,600 per student in primary and secondary schools for purchase of learning materials.

Source – Business Daily – by Victor Juma

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