Bibi Bakare-Yusuf is co-founder and publishing director of one of Africa’s leading publishing houses, Cassava Republic Press www.cassavarepublic.biz. She has worked as a gender and research consultant in the public, private and development sectors for the BBC, UniFem, ActionAid, eShekels, Central Bank of Nigeria, the European Union and others. She co-founded Tapestry Consulting, a boutique research and training company focused on gender, sexuality and transformational issues in Nigeria. She has a Ph.D in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Warwick. She has published many academic papers and regularly presents papers at academic conferences. She sits on the editorial board of a number of influential journals. Bibi is also a Yale World Fellow, a Desmond Tutu Fellow and a Frankfurt Book Fair Fellow.
Extract from the Brittle Paper:
The Brittle Paper African Literary Person of the Year recognizes individuals who work behind the scenes to hold up the African literary establishment in the given year. Our 2018 honour goes to Dr. Bibi Bakare-Yusuf for her long service and leadership in publishing.
As Publishing Director of one of Africa’s most beloved indie presses, Cassava Republic, Bakare-Yusuf is a life-line. How Bakare came into publishing is a well-known story in the literary community. In 2003, she went on a research trip to Nigeria. During her visit, she made a disheartening observation. “I was puzzled,” she says in a TED Talk, “by the book shelves I saw. Sadly, many of them were empty.” For someone like her who believes that nations and civilizations are built on the cultivation of the character and creativity that come with reading, the empty book shelves were heartbreaking. But she didn’t just sit there and complain. She didn’t wait till she had funding from some foundation. She didn’t wait till she had an MBA. She began to lay plans to establish a publishing start-up at great financial sacrifice to herself.
In 2006 when Bakare-Yusuf co-founded Cassava Republic, African literature was beginning to gain momentum in the global literary scene—a long-awaited development from the drought of the ’90s—but was still nowhere near where it is today. While the rest of the world was still waiting to be convinced that African literature was cool and sexy and profitable, she took the plunge.
“What I admire the most about Bibi is her ambition. Her vision is for Cassava Republic as a global business, a global brand,” says Emma Shercliff, Cassava Republic’s Sales & Rights Director.