Regional book fair goes to Mombasa


Makini Junior School learning in a cartoon class during the 24th Nairobi International Book fair on. [Samson Wire/Standard]

The Kenyan publishing fraternity will be gathered at the Mama Ngina Waterfront, for four days, starting next Wednesday, for the Mombasa Regional Book Fair.

The Mombasa Regional Book Fair forms part of the Nairobi International Book Fair (NIBF) franchise, organised by the Kenya Publishers Association (KPA), marking its 25th anniversary this year.

Kiarie Kamau, the chairman of KPA, says the Silver Jubilee milestone illustrates the commitment of Kenyan publishers, who have used a self-sustaining model to successfully hold book fairs over the years.

“In terms of consistency and sheer level of organisation and participation, KPA only comes second to the Cairo Book Fair,” said Kamau, who is also the CEO of East African Educational Publishers (EAEP).

“The silver jubilee therefore means a lot to us and that is why we will be lining up major events to mark this important milestone.”

Kenyan publishers play a big role in the Kenyan educational sector, seeing as they are the sole producers of educational materials in the country. While the Ministry of Education, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, formulates the curriculum to be used in schools, it is publishers who interpret it and produce the learning materials.

It is through such fairs that schools get to learn in terms of books and make orders according to their needs.

The theme of this year’s book fair is ‘25 Years of Excellence and Innovation in Publishing’.

“Every year, we have a regional book fair that takes place in a county headquarter, as a precursor to the main NIBF,” explains James Odhiambo, the CEO of KPA.

“Last year’s regional book fair took place in Eldoret and the year before that, in Nakuru.”

Regional book fairs, he said, are KPA’s version of devolving their activities to the counties, in line with the 2010 Constitution.

Among the key attractions at the Mombasa Book Fair will be a presentation on Fasihi by Mombasa-based author DW Lutomia.

Lutomia the editor of ‘Mapambazuko ya Machweo’, a collection of short stories, and a secondary school set book, will give tips on how to appreciate the books as well as how to tackle exam questions.

Odhiambo said NIBF and KPA would not be what it is today without the input of people who have served in the publishing industry.

“We shall be launching the KPA Hall of Fame, where we shall be recognising the input of individuals who have overtime, sacrificed their time and effort, in one capacity or the other, to make the industry a success,” he added.

The main event, Nairobi International Book Fair will take place between September 25 and September 29, at the Sarit Expo Centre, in Westlands.

In choosing this theme, publishers chose to reflect on the journey they have travelled, not just in terms of the book fair, but also in terms of their history as publishers. They will also be assessing the innovations they have gone through, particularly technological advances.

History of book fairs in Kenya

The earliest evidence of book fairs in the country was in the 70s, and these were held in the open air at Uhuru Park. These early book fairs were organised by the Text Book Centre (TBC), who had started selling books in the country in the early 1950s.

With time, the idea of book fairs took hold with many others following suit. For example, the Kenya National Library Services introduced reading tents in rural areas. The National Book Development Council of Kenya, on the other hand, came up with the Book Week.

By 1988 book fairs had stopped being informal affairs and started acquiring a more professional outlook.

At that time, book fairs were run as a private outfit by Bookman Consultants owned by Stanley Irura. Irura ran the book fair, which was then based at Charter Hall up to 1994. It was then known as the Nairobi Book Fair.

At some point the Council for the Promotion of Children’s Science Publications in Africa under Prof Odhiambo took over the running of the book fair and named it the Pan African Book Fair, moving it to KICC from 1995 to 1996.

With time, KPA saw the need to play a more active role in the running of book fairs and that is how the council, approached the management of TBC, which was by now contemplating holding book fairs at the Sarit Centre, which they owned.

The very first book fair organised by KPA was held at the Sarit Expo Centre, in 1998, under its present name, The Nairobi International Book Fair.


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