The TRUE AFRICA 100 is our list of innovators, opinion-formers, game-changers, pioneers, dreamers and mavericks who we feel are shaping the Africa of today.
From Tanzania – and now living between London and Berlin – Jacob Cockcroft is the founder of the digital publishing startup, The Pigeonhole. Earlier this year, they released Letters from Africa, a series of correspondence from interesting writers all over the continent. The Pigeonhole publish – on iOS or Kindle (and android soon) – works by the coolest young emerging writers as well as established authors and encourage their readers to interact while they read.
The Pigeonhole wants to grow fast and aims to have 100,000 users within two years. Jacob previously worked in corporate intelligence where he specialised in Africa and financial crime.
How do you see publishing developing on the continent?
Mobile reading will change everything, and will release a whole new generation of writers. Twitter has allowed young civil society activists, journalists and political commentators to challenge the status quo; mobile reading will do exactly the same for writers.
The conversation about African writing and writers can start to take place on the continent, rather then overseas.
The two big game-changing aspects are cost of production and continent-wide distribution. This has always been the problem with traditional publishing in Africa and a big limiting factor in preventing the spread of literature across borders. Digital platforms provide writers with the ability to distribute their works while also building up a following and interacting with their audience, across the whole continent.
Most importantly, this means that the conversation about African writing and writers can start to take place on the continent, rather then overseas. Moreover, fiction and non-fiction can be rooted in African experiences, challenging people on the continent to question and reflect on their societies in important ways. Literature, fiction and non-fiction, can be an amazing force for good, and the digital spread of African writers has the potential to have a very meaningful impact on the development of the continent over the coming years.
Tanzania’s elections are coming up. How do you see it panning out for young people?
This could be the breakthrough election. The young generation is much less enamoured with CCM, the party which has dominated politics since independence, and are increasingly demanding change. That said, the surprise appointment of Edward Lowassa (the former prime minister) as the opposition presidential candidate has rather restricted their choice, and we have been left with an old guard versus old guard competition.
I would tip Zitto Kabwe to win next time around, so the young Tanzanians might have to wait till then for meaningful political change.
Whether a CHADEMA victory will be better for young people is not clear (personalities rather then policies have dominated the debate so far). It is Zitto Kabwe, the young outspoken anti-corruption politician, who is the most exciting politician for young people. Unfortunately he cannot stand as he is under 40 years old. Expect his Alliance for Change and Transparency to do well this time, but likely will have to wait for next time around for their breakthrough. I would tip him to win next time around, so the young Tanzanians might have to wait till then for meaningful political change.
Who’s your African of the year?
Boniface Mwangi, the award-winning Kenyan photographer and social-political activist. He embodies the determination to create a better, fairer, more just society, and works tirelessly for this. After meeting him in Nairobi recently, you could only be inspired by him, and it makes you feel optimistic for the future. His latest initiative, Pawa 254, is a really interesting space for artists and activists working towards social change and human rights in Kenya.
His street art is also brilliant, although the government has a habit of removing it. The continent needs more people like him.
Check out the thepigeonhole.com
Come back tomorrow for the next TRUE Africa 100 and keep up to date using the hashtag #TRUEAfrica