Bellagio Publishing Network  

 BPN Newsletter Issue No 29, December 2001 


African Journal of Reproductive Health - development, challenges and prospects

James Falaiye
James Falaiye is Managing Editor, African Journal of Reproductive Health, 4 Alofoje Street, Off Uwasota Street, P. O. Box 10231, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. +234 -52- 600151 or 602334 (tel), email: or

The decision to publish the African Journal of Reproductive Health came out of a burning desire to make available research findings in reproductive health in Africa to the world of researchers. From just an idea it became a reality and today we have a journal that is well accepted by publishers and researchers worldwide. The specific objectives of the journal were: (1) to promote the scientific study of reproductive health in Africa; (2) to provide an avenue through which researchers in Africa can document their findings in reproductive health research; (3) to provide a scientific understanding of the reproductive health needs in Africa; and (4) to provide a forum for policy makers, service providers and reproductive health advocates to exchange information and to dialogue on all aspects of reproductive health in Africa.

At the beginning two editorial offices were established for the journal, one in Germany and the other in Nigeria. The German office was responsible for most of the production and distribution processes. However, because the vision of the founding editor was to have a journal that is African-based the production process was gradually transferred to Nigeria, with the employment of a managing editor who had experience in book publishing for the Nigerian office. The process began in 1998 and by the end of 1999 production and distribution was being managed entirely from Nigeria, the editorial office in Germany serving as a point for peer-review of articles.

The first issue of the journal was published and printed in 1997 in the USA. At that stage only two issues were published per year; one in April and the other in October. Because of the large numbers of articles being accepted for publication in the journal the editorial board decided to commence publishing three issues per year from 2001. This has greatly reduced the period between submission and publication of articles.

Publishing such a scholarly journal in Africa has not been without its challenges. One major challenge we have faced is distribution. Most researchers in the developing countries, for whom the journal is actually meant, cannot afford to pay the subscription rates for the journal; in essence we have had to battle with a low subscription base, with about 90 per cent of our subscriptions coming from the developed countries.

Another challenge is that of staff training. Major training programmes on journal publishing take place in the developed countries, and we do not have provision for overseas training. We therefore are seeking for collaboration with donor agencies, training institutions and other actors in publishing engaged in and willing to look at strategies to reinforce our capacity in publishing.

Notwithstanding, we have made significant strides within the short period that the journal has been in circulation. Positive comments from individuals worldwide attest to the quality of the articles and production when compared with other journals from Africa. Despite the high cost of production and distribution and the low subscription base, we have maintained regular and timely production. The journal has come to be one of the best of its kind produced in Africa. It has enjoyed the privilege of being included in the Medline. It is also one of the journals whose tables of contents and abstracts are being published on the International Network for the Availability of Scientific Publications (INASP)'s African Journals Online Project.

One of our plans for the future is to have a website so that our articles can be published online. When the journal was being published in the US it enjoyed the privilege of being included on Harvard University's website, but since every production process has being shifted to Nigeria this has stopped and thus there is an urgent need to establish a new site that could be operated from Nigeria. INASP has started a process to assist in doing this by training two of our staff members on internet publishing at a workshop they organised in Zimbabwe in October 2001. More support from other organisations is required to realise the online plans.

We are also considering the possibility of increasing the number of issues published from three to four per year to enable us to cope with the number of articles being accepted for publication and in so doing work towards expanding the avenues for scholarly research in Africa. In order to make the journal self-sustaining we will need to work harder in our marketing activities, especially in getting more subscribers and sourcing for advertisements and other outlets to promote its visibility and also alleviate part of our financial expenses.

We are aware that the prevailing context of dwindling resources for journals acquisition for libraries and research institutions affects publishers the world over. However, scholarly researchers from Africa have even fewer opportunities than their counterparts in the North. Efforts such as bulk subscriptions of the journal through international organisations for distribution to scholars, or international commercial publishers' support in allowing smaller publishers access to their distribution networks, could go a long way towards strengthening African publishers.


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