If you’re looking to explore Kenya and the African continent this year, here are some of the biggest events and festivals locally and in the region.

They range from food festivals, music festivals and cultural festivals which is testament to the diversity of the region. Of particular interest would be the Maralal Carmel Derby – the only carmel derby of its kind in the world, and Mwaka Kogwa Festival in Zanzibar which is a celebration of the Persian New Year. It is best to confirm with your local travel agent/company before making travel plans to attend this festival normally held on the third week of July.

1. Rusinga Festival

This annual 2 day festival founded by Anne Eboso celebrates and aims to preserve the Suba culture and it is hosted on Rusinga Island in Homabay County. It takes place on the last Thursday and Friday before Christmas and features music, art, cultural sporting activities and cuisine indigenous to the community.

The 8th edition of the Rusinga Festival will take place on 19th and 20th December.

2. Maralal Camel Derby 2019

Maralal Camel Derby 2016

The annual camel derby takes place in the middle of the year in Maralal town, attracting local and international visitors. The race is open to professional and amateur camel riders. A 10km cycling race happens concurrently with the derby. Aside from the races there is a cultural show that displays the diversity of the resident communities of Samburu County. This year the festival will take place from August 30th – September 1st 2019.

3. Kilifi New Year Festival 2019

Kilifi New Year is a boutique African electronic, alternative and dub-reggae music festival held under the stars and in the shade of thousand year old Baobabs in Kilifi town on the coast of Kenya from 30th December 2019 to 2nd January 2020.

4. Lilongwe Jazz festival 2019

After a successful inaugural Lilongwe Jazz Festival (LJF) last year, organizers of the festival are set to host another festival from August 30 to 31,2019.

Some of expected the lined up artists for the festival are Mbirizi and the Jazz café band, Paliani and The Daughters Band among others. The organizers have indicated that apart from the international artists they will have local artists at the event who together will add up to 20 for the two days and 80 per cent are those that come last year.

The festival is being organized by Lilongwe Jazz Festival Limited and has planned many pre-shows before the main event at Lilongwe golf club.

5. Nyege Nyege Festival 2019


Nyege Nyege Festival

Started in October 2015, Nyege Nyege has grown to become one of the biggest music celebrations in East Africa. In 2017, the 4 day festival attracted 7,000 attendees, had 4 music stages and over 200 performers from all over Uganda and in the region. The 2019 festival will take place from 5th-8th September at the Nile Discovery Beach in Jinja.

6. Kwita Izina 2019

Kwita Izina (The Gorilla Naming Ceremony) is a country wide event held in September where baby gorillas are introduced to the local communities, formally named and celebrated. This year, the event will take place in Kinigi-Musanze on 6th September.

7. Storymoja Festival

Storymoja Festival 2017

Dubbed the ‘biggest book party’ in East Africa, the Storymoja festival is a 5 day annual feast for book lovers and literary art enthusiasts usually held in September. The event brings together some of the most notable poets, authors and artists on and off the continent to host discussions, workshops and entertain attendees through the week long festival. Dates are yet to be announced.

8. Rwanda Film Festival

Over a period of 10 years, Rwanda Film Festival also known as Hillywood has established itself as one of Rwanda’s most important cultural event. For 7 days, film lovers, filmmakers, industry professionals and media will watch the best in new cinema from established masters and new local and international talents. The film festival will be held from 19th-26th October 2019.

9. Mwaka Kogwa Festival 2019

A four day festival of Shirazi Heritage held in Zanzibar. It commemorates Nayrouz – the Persian New Year in Zanzibar. Historically, the Shirazis were the first set of non-Africans to settle in Zanzibar and over time aspects of their culture have been absorbed and given localized names by the native Swahilis. One of such is the Mwaka Kogwa.

The event is held in Makunduchi on the southern eastern tip of Unguja. It is normally held on the third week of July.

10. Bayimba International Festival of Arts, Uganda

The Bayimba International Festival of Arts is an ultra music festival attracts a wide range of local and international artists over a period of 4 days. The 12th edition will be held on Lunkulu Island from 1-4th August 2019.

The festival include art disciplines such as Music, Dance, Poetry, Storytelling, Acrobatics, Theatre, Film, and Visual Arts from renowned and upcoming Artists.

Artists slated for the event include Iddi Masaba, Gravity Omutujju, Faizal Mostrixx, Willy Mukabya, Jah Lex, Sarah Zawedde & Zawee Band, Sammy Kasule, Lil Rich, Benjamin Prince, Leumas Owabajaja, Tushi Polo, Muserebende Hytham Ssali, Sandra Nankoma, Kenneth Mugabi, Aziz Azion, Sandra Suubi, Apio Moro, Leo Mkanyia, Little Black Kid, Nach Musik, Poros, Dj MAD, Sophia Burns, Swabirina Matali Group , Kitara Nation Poets, Dj Mash up, Izaya The Composer, Fya LeBoof, Ras Brown, Since 88, Hola Jefe, Famous Friends Acrobatics, Cheek-O Dread, Moses Rallo, and Gregg Tendwa.

11. Kampala Rolex Festival 2019

A Rolex – a roll of chapati, omelette and vegetables is a road side delicacy in Uganda. This festival brings together majority or Rolex vendors in Uganda, restaurants and hotels into one big gastronomical celebration of this much loved Ugandan delicacy. Festival will be held on 18th August 2019 at Uganda Museum in Kampala

12. Lake of Stars Jazz Festival 2019

The Lake of Stars Festival is an annual three-day international jazz festival held on the shores of Lake Malawi, the third largest lake in Africa. The first festival took place in 2004 and attracts over 4,000 attendees with musical acts drawn mainly from Africa and Europe.

The three day event will take place from 27 – 29 September 2019 at Kachere Kastle.

The line up for this year include South African Music Awards winning afro-soul star Bongeziwe Mabandla, Queen of Malawian R n B and Afrima award winning Hazel Mak; Forbes Africa 30 under 30 nominee and storyteller and poet Upile Chisala; and one of Malawi’s hottest turntable wizards, RJ the DJ.

13. Joy of Jazz festival 2019

The 2019 Standard Bank Joy of Jazz Festival (JOJ) is slated from 26 to 28 September at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. The event, which is in its 22nd edition, will run under the theme Jazz in 19Afrika.

Artists performing at the event include nine-time Grammy winner Wynton Marsalis and his 15-piece Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, and Marcus Wyatt & The ZAR Jazz Orchestra. They will be joined by Moreira Chonguiça (Mozambique), Roberto Fonseca (Cuba), Manu Katché (France), Ken Peplowski (US), Rahsaan Patterson (US), Salim Washington (US), Etuk Ubong (Nigeria), Kyekyeku (Ghana). Confirmed local acts include Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Sibongile Khumalo, Sipho ‘Hotstix’ Mabuse, Siphokazi & The Soil, Nomfundo Xaluva, Nokukhanya Dlamini, Stimela, Zoe Masuku, Zoe Modiga, Nduduzo Makhathini, Don Laka, Vuyo Tyolo, Nokukhanya Dlamini, Sobantwana, R Benjamin, Aus Tebza and Nelisiwe, among others.

14. Writivism Festival 2019

The Writivism Festival annual festival will take place between 15-17 August, 2019 in Kampala. The Writivism Festival is organised by the Centre for African Cultural Excellence (CACEAfrica).

It is part of Writivism, the Kampala-based initiative that identifies, mentors and promotes emerging African writers. The festival is Uganda’s leading literary event and it celebrates various arts around an annual theme.

The festival includes author panels, readings, poetry events, mentorship sessions among others.

15. Aké Arts and Book Festival 2019

The Aké Arts and Book Festival is an annual literary, cultural and arts event that was founded in 2013 by Nigerian writer Lola Shoneyin, taking place in Abeokuta, Nigeria. It features new and established writers from across the world, and it promotes and celebrates creativity on the African continent in diverse genres.

The 2019 edition will be held on October 24-27 2019.

16. Mugithi Festival 2019

The Mugithi Festival is a celebration of gikuyu tradition, music, food, art and fashion brought to you in the form of a concert. It will be on September 7th at the Barclays Sports Club.

It will feature various Mugithi musicians such as Sami Doh, Mike Rua, John De Mathew, Joyce Wa Mama, Ayrosh, Martin Wa Janet among others.

Tickets are available here

17. Pawa Festival 2019

Pawa Festival 2016

The annual street festival hosted by PAWA254 takes place in the month of December. The event is a rich kaleidoscope of various visual and performing artists who block an entire street in Nairobi and treat revelers to an afternoon and evening of art.

18. Afrolect Festival

Nairobi Horns Project

The second edition of the festival will take place at Kanjata 5 on 14th September 2019 from 3pm – 10pm.

The lineup for Afrolect 2 features artists such as Gravitti, one of Kenya’s leading live Reggae acts and the Crown Prince of Benga Dan Aceda. Master pianist Victor Dey Jr from Ghana, Nairobi Horns Project and Sol Generation’s Bensoul will also perform at the event.

Advance tickets are Ksh 1,000 and are available via Mookh.