Nairobi International Book Fair Introduces Rights Trading

In News by Porter Anderson

The 24th edition of Kenya’s Nairobi International Book Fair this year adds a ‘Rights Café’ for business meetings and networking.

Sol Kids publisher Polycarp Otieno participates in a ‘book talk’ session for children at the 2022 Nairobi International Book Fair. Image: NIBF

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Lawrence Njagi: ‘Intra-Africa Trade’
This year’s Nairobi International Book Fair is produced by the Kenya Publishers Association and APNET, the African Publishers Network. Ekitabu, the e-learning platform, has worked with the publishers’ association and network to expand the program with new capabilities in rights trading and programming.

When this public-facing fair opens on Wednesday (September 27) to run through October 1, it will have its first rights-trading facility on offer for B2B rights discussions. The “Rights Café,” as its’s called, is expected to draw participants not only from Kenya, the show’s host country, but also from Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Lawrence Njagi

And those representatives of African markets are hoping to meet some of their counterparts from Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Lawrence Njagi, the Mountain Top Publishers managing director well-known to Publishing Perspectives readers as the former chief of the Kenya Publishers Association—and now chair of APNET—says that at Nairobi International Book Fair, “publishing professionals and the public will come together for intra-Africa trade, fulfilling the government of Kenya’s vision for business in Africa and with Africans.”

Kiarie Kamau

Kiarie Kamau, who now chairs the Kenya Publishers Association and is CEO of East African Educational Publishers, says, “African books are still not well known beyond our borders.

“The Kenya Publishers Association is excited to see Nairobi International Book Fair uplifted, providing a home for engagement and opportunities for publishers to showcase new and existing content from Africa, with the goal of building the market and moving books around the world.”

Mercy Kirui

And Mercy Kirui, senior manager of content at the show’s commercial sponsor, Ekitabu, says, “The inaugural Rights Café will be a new wellspring in African publishing.

“We welcome publishers and literary agents to join [with others] who are coming to build relationships and buy rights for books.”

A program of panel discussions along with author conversations—the theme is “Nurturing Talent Through Publishing—is part of the plan, as are one-on-one meetings for rights buyers and sellers. Workshops are to be offered to authors, illustrators, and designers.

Three-Day Business Program

In the model that has become common at fairs in so many parts of the world, the business program will have events on the first three days, with the weekend days left primarily to the general public. Among those anticipated to be on hand from the business community are:

  • Asare Konadu Yamoah, Adaex Educational Publications, Ghana
  • Bieke van Aggelen, African Literary Agency, the Netherlands
  • Goretti Kyomuhendo, African Writers Trust, Uganda
  • Jessica Powers, Catalyst Press, United States
  • Molly Slight, Scribe Publishing, United Kingdom
  • Maureen Masamba, Dzuka Publishing Company, Malawi
  • Mutesi Gasana, Ubuntu Publishers, Rwanda
  • Raphaël Thierry, Ægitna Literary Agency, France
  • Samuel Kolawale, University Press, Nigeria
  • Stefanie Hirsbrunner, InterKontinental, Germany
  • Valeria Paolini, Horizons Project, Italy

The overall book fair’s features, of course, will focus on consumers’ interests in reading, writing, and various African communities’ languages and cultures. Advertising from the publishers’ association encourages consumer attendance by offering free entrance to the exhibition and books at a 50-percent discount, along with chances to meet “your favorite authors.”

Nairobi International Book Fair had its first presentation in 1996, and this year’s iteration is its 24th. Its primary function, as in so many cases of well-attended regional fairs, has been that of a selling-festival, a marketplace for books, authors, readers, publishers, and the vendors who surround and support them. Organizers this year say that they hope this year’s approach will lead to more iterations of the show combining both literature and business interests, as has become common in many book-fair settings.

Ekitabu, the fair’s sponsor may ring a bell with our readership for its win of the London Book Fair International Excellence Awards in 2019 for an Accessible Books Consortium initiative honor. The company classifies itself as Kenyan, Rwandan, and Malawian, with its headquarters in Nairobi. It was founded in 2014 and its digital educational outreach services operate throughout Kenya and in 14 African markets. The company reports that in 2022, its reach rose to as many as 12 million viewers per week.


Melissa Wakhu

A programming note: On Frankfurt Wednesday at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22), our Publishing Perspectives Forum will feature a discussion with independent publishers, one of whom is Melissa Wakhu, CEO of Kenya’s Sol Kids Africa. (Her associate, Polycarp Otieno, is seen in our lead photo on this article.) 

With Wakhu, we’ll hear from:

  • Sharky Chen, founder of Comma Books and president of the Indie Publishers Association of Taiwan
  • Tom Kraushaar, publishing director of Klett-Cotta in Germany
  • Sevani Matos, president of the Brazilian Book Chamber in Brazil and general director with VR Editora in Brazil

That’s at 11 a.m. on October 18, and as last year, the PP Forum is set in the bright, tree-lined Room Spektrum on Level 2 of the Messe Frankfurt Congress Center. More on the Forum and its programming is here, with information on our speakers and their appearances.

More from Publishing Perspectives on publishing in Africa is here, more on the Kenyan market is here, more on international book fairs and trade shows is here, and more on rights trading in international publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.