Nairobi International Book Fair 2023: Exploring new literary horizons

Learners having an interactive session at Sarit Center during the Nairobi International Book Fair 2023 which happened from September 27 to October 1. The occasion offered authors, book enthusiasts and publishers a chance to interact, showcase their works and access resourceful materials. PHOTO/NIBF.
  • This year’s event, which is poised to rewrite the narrative of the publishing world, was themed Nurturing Talent Through Publishing.
  • The Kenya Publishers Association organizes a regional book fair every June, where they schedule visits to different counties. NIBF happens annually every September.
  • The 24th edition of NIBF was set apart by the innovative “Rights Café”.

The 24th edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) has unfurled its pages in a platform where culture converges with creativity at the Sarit Expo Centre in Westlands.

The literary spectacle was officially opened by the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of Defense Aden Duale (who is also an author) and beckoned publishers, authors and book enthusiasts who gathered and interacted from September 27 to October 1.

Delegation from Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, South Africa among other countries in Africa and beyond was represented in the literary confluence.

This year’s event, which is poised to rewrite the narrative of the publishing world, was themed Nurturing Talent Through Publishing.

The event was hosted by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), the umbrella body of publishers in Kenya.

Resplendent return post-pandemic

The impact of the pandemic was greatly felt by book lovers as gathering restrictions forced the cancellation of book fairs in the country in 2020 and 2021.

During the Fair, Mary Maina, the Chairperson of NIBF and Chief Executive of Moran Publishers, noted that this year’s event promises to be a notable improvement over the past year.

One indicator of this growth is the substantial increase in the number of exhibitors.

Mrs. Mary Maina, NIBF chairperson and Chief Executive of Moran Publishers giving her remarks at the NIBF. PHOTO/NIBF.

“We have 120 stands fully taken, an improvement of 10 from last year’s event. Last year we only had one foreign exhibitor. However, this year, some of the foreign exhibitors coming to the NIBF include China, Abu Dhabi, South Africa, Uganda and Tanzania,” said Ms. Maina.

She termed the event to be of significance and emphasized the importance for industry players to converge.

“It is important to emphasize that the NIBF is the biggest and most prestigious book event in Africa, second to the Cairo Book Fair,” the Chief Executive added.

The Kenya Publishers Association organizes a regional book fair every June, where they schedule visits to different counties. NIBF happens annually every September.

For the record

The Chief Guest, CS in the Ministry of Defense and author Aden Duale, while giving his remarks during the opening ceremony, shared his unique journey as a writer and the compelling narrative of his book For the Record.

Aden Duale, CS in the Ministry of Defense and author of ‘For the Record’ and special guest at the 24th edition of the Nairobi International Book Fair gives a speech. PHOTO/NIBF.

Hon. Duale articulated his belief in the refreshing sanctuary that books provide amidst the cacophony of the modern world.

“In a world often marked by noise and destruction, books offer us refuge and a sanctuary where we can explore new worlds, discover new perspectives and live new experiences,” said the CS.

During his address, he shared invaluable advice with the young aspiring authors urging them to document their journeys diligently, to create career maps replete with details and personal insights, both successes and failure.

“It does not matter what background one is from; once you’ve made up your mind that you want to succeed, the doors will open. Make sure to tell the story of your practice by jotting down everything that you do,” advised Duale.

He recognized the size of the publishing community, terming it as his second family and urged Kenyan leaders to follow in suit and document their political journeys.

“I wanted to show an example and call on my colleagues in leadership to write their memoires, their books to document important seasons in the Kenyan political climate. It is the best political legacy we can leave to the future generations,” he said.

Nurturing talents

The prominent political figure underscored the paramount importance of mentorship.

His journey from political leadership to successful authorship serves as a resounding testament of the transformative power of mentorship.

Spotlight Publishers (EA) stand at the Sarit Expo Centre. This was among the 120 stands of publishers and authors at the Nairobi International Book Fair 2023. PHOTO/NIBF.

“My book is a lesson to you, dear young people of our country, that if you work very hard, with focus, discipline and commitment, you get to where you want; the people to hold your hand will show up and you will win,” he said.

Ms. Maina, the chairperson of NIBF, noted that their promotional strategy worked very well, seeing that the audience has responded and is resonating well with this year’s theme and implementation of the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC) in the country.

“As publishers during this bookfair we had an idea of nurturing talent across the board so in this event we invited new authors who are interested in authorship to be guided by veteran authors,” Ms. Maina commented on the aspect of mentorship.

She further noted that the fair was also for those who would like to grow their skills and talent in editorial work and in illustrations, which are so much used by publishers, and also a chance to buy materials to nurture their skills in reading, writing and publishing in general.

For school-going children, the book fair was a living classroom and an immersive experience that transcended the confines of their regular classrooms as they interacted with accomplished authors and literary giants.

Learners interact at the eKitabu stand at the Book Fair. NIBF was a great experience that transcended the confines of their regular classrooms as they interacted with accomplished authors and new books. PHOTO/NIBF.

Interactions with veteran wordsmiths such as the 73-year-old John Kiriamiti, author of 6-series crime fiction books, and political authors such as Beth Mugo, author of Early Bird, a memoir, among others, acted as a conduit for intergenerational exchange of skills and talent.

Intellectual rights exchange

The 24th edition of NIBF was set apart by the innovative “Rights Café”.

In this groundbreaking move, Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), in collaboration with eKitabu and the African Publishers Network (APNET) had dedicated a full–fledged pavilion to the buying and selling of intellectual property rights.

An afternoon session at the ‘Rights Café’. The platform was innovated to help publishers and authors sell and buy intellectual rights. PHOTO/NIBF.

It offered an engaging program encompassing panel discussions and one-on-one meetings where rights buyers and sellers converged.

The rights café represents a significant shift in the industry, offering a structured platform for publishers both local and foreign, to trade in these invaluable rights.

“This is a business opportunity that for many years has not been exploited on the continent. During its heyday, the Zimbabwe International Book Fair (ZIBF) used to be a vibrant hub for trading in rights; but unfortunately, ZIBF went into slumber and so did this line of business,” stated Kiarie Kamau, chairman KPA and Managing Director East African Educational Publishers.

Kiarie Kamau, Kenya Publishers Association chairman and MD East African Educational Publishers gives an address at the book fair. PHOTO/NIBF.

This opportunity is set to expand revenue streams by way of authors and publishers selling rights for their general materials and also expose their publishing houses and authors to other parts of the world.

“KPA is excited to see the Nairobi International Book Fair uplifted, providing a home for publishers to showcase new and exciting content from Africa, with the goal of building the market and moving books around the world,” Mr. Kamau further commented on this development.

In his part, Lawrence Njagi, the current chair at APNET and Managing Director at Mountain Top Publishers, envisioned a convergence of publishing professionals and the public to foster intra-trade in Africa through buying and selling of rights.

From left: Elyas Abdi, Director General in the Ministry of Education, Kiarie Kamau, KPA Chairman and Amb. Francis Muthaura, join other partiicpants in following proceedings at the Nairobi International Book Fair. PHOTO/NIBF.

Valeria Paolini, an NIBF ambassador representing Italy, commented on the Rights Café platform saying her focus goes beyond rights sales seeing that she aims to curate a portfolio of books for proposal to publishers.

“As a translator, I will be aiming not only at straightforward right sales but also at building up a list of books for proposals to selected publishers. For this reason, coming to agreements with rights holders at NIBF will be crucial,” stated the ambassador.


This strategic platform promises to facilitate the exchange of literary rights, thus amplifying reach of authors and content creators, ultimately reaching the global literary landscape.

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Ms. Njoroge holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism from Moi University. She is a Digital Human-Interest Writer, particularly in the realms of Gender, Book Reviews, Environment and Climate Change. Email:


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