Nneka Offor: Digital publishing can transform learning in Africa

The digital revolution doesn’t start and end with social media. Some entrepreneurs are pushing the revolution into other parts of life. Take education and reading for example, 20 percent of Nigerians who go online do so to read something new. Nneka Offor is at the forefront, pushing eBooks and eLearning to change the way Africans learn. Nneka is the founder and CEO of WhiteLeaf Digital, a digital publishing company based in Enugu, Nigeria. Here she explains how the digital revolution will affect reading and learning.

Is there a market for eBooks and eLearning in Nigeria?

There is a huge untapped market for eBooks and eLearning in Nigeria and Africa at large.

The concept of an ­ eBook is an electronic version of a printed book that can be read on any smart device. eLearning involves utilizing electronic technologies to access educational curriculum outside of the traditional classroom. At the close of 2016’s second quarter, the number of internet users on Nigeria’s telecoms networks hit 97.21 million with 85 percent accessing the Internet via mobile devices.

On exactly what these people do online, 22 percent spend their time on social media, 20 percent opt for reading, 19 percent spend their time reading and sending emails. Movies and music enjoy a 13 percent share of the Nigerians time online while shopping gets a 5 percent cut. These statistics show that Nigeria already has the enabling platform for eBooks and eLearning.

The overall growth rate for self-­paced e­Learning in Africa is 15.2 percent. Senegal has the highest growth rate, followed by Kenya and Nigeria. Self­paced e­learning revenues in Africa reached $ 250.9 million in 2011 and will more than double by 2016. Research analysts forecast the eLearning potential will get tripled largely in South Africa and Nigeria.

Why start a technologically driven business considering high data costs across Africa?

eBook or eLearning does not consume data. Online readings consumes between 380KB­ and 1MB depending on how long you spend online. Downloading a book from an eBook server archive needs 800KB. The longer you read, the more data it consumes. After you have downloaded your eBook and have them saved on your device, subsequent readings will be done offline and does not require data. Data is only spent when you’re reading online or downloading from the server after which you will no longer require data to read.

Video or audio take more data. Online video streaming can take as much as 1GB in an hour. It takes between 3MB to 160 MB to download a 1­7-hour video.


What steps are you taking to transform African educational sector?

Our first point of call is Nigeria. Presently we are in talks with Nigerian ­based educational publishers over integrating digital publishing. Not only is this technology driven, it is also cheaper to publish eBooks as there are no distribution or warehousing cost. We’re also working towards getting institutions and corporate organizations to have e­Libraries and eLearning platforms so as to encourage students/employees to read at their own pace anytime and anywhere.

The other thing which is undoubtedly the easiest way to transform the educational sector, is awareness. Publishers and book lovers need to be aware of the transformation. That is why we are currently organizing a digital publishing summit scheduled to hold by the last quarter of 2016. The details are not in the news yet but it will attract traditional and digital publishers all over Africa. We will be discussing pertinent issues on how to convert and integrate traditional prints into digital formats, especially for educational purposes.

How will digital publishing revolutionize learning?

Digital publishing creates interactive learning. Studies show that interactive content can boost learning retention and students prefer to learn by doing, versus seeing or reading. When they interact with videos, charts, and graphs, they retain more information. Digital publishing can help transform passive learners into active participants. Also, learning materials are more accessible and affordable, and it reduces traditional book printing and distribution cost.

By producing digital versions of educational literature and publications, you can substantially cut printing costs. This leaves you with more budget for other learning and marketing activities. Distributing heavy printed text books can be very expensive, not to mention slow. Using a digital distribution channel you can get your message out to a wider audience immediately, with no postage costs. Access to eBook is also quicker, cost­ effective and friendlier on the environment. In many cases, content can be created once and delivered to multiple platforms and operating systems, reducing the cost of publishing while simultaneously reaching broader audiences.

Have you faced any challenge in setting up a digital publishing company outside Lagos?

We have not faced any technological challenge setting up our business in Enugu. The only challenge we have faced with is delay in working with the traditional publishers. Most of them are based in the west while we are in the east. On many occasions, we have to go travel to meet with publishers for meetings. This has prompted us to start making plans to setup an office in Lagos precisely so we can be closer to the publishers.

How would you like to be remembered?

I would like to be remembered as a transformational leader who created value and made a significant positive impact in the society I lived in.

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