Etisalat Prize for Literature: will Nigeria finally win big?

By Ayomide Oriade

For many lovers of literary works in Nigeria, the Etisalat Prize for Literature has become a big date in their diaries. It is a night where works of talented African word stringers are hugely celebrated in a relaxed and festive atmosphere.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature is the first ever pan-African prize celebrating first time writers of published fiction books. The prize is a way by which the telecom company encourages upcoming African writers to express their passion and creativity. It is specifically for new writers of African citizenship whose first fiction book (over 30,000 words) was published in the last twenty four (24) months. There’s also a Flash Fiction Award established to cater to the large amount of interest received from unpublished writers across the continent whose work is not more than 300 words.

Lagos Nigeria has hosted the first three editions. Nigerian writers have made the final shortlist for the major prize, but none has won it.
On Sunday February 23, 2014 at the Marquee of the Federal Palace Hotel, Lagos, NoViolet Bulawayo’s ‘We Need New Names’ was announced winner of the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature.

She beat off competition from two other female writers, Yewande Omotoso with ‘Bom Boy’ and Karen Jennings with ‘Finding Soutbek’ to go home with a £15,000 cash prize. She also won a slot to attend the Etisalat Fellowship at the prestigious University of East Anglia (mentored by Giles Foden – Author of The Last King of Scotland) and embark on a three city book tour alongside the other runner up authors.

One year after, precisely Sunday 15th March 2015, South African writer, Songeziwe Mahlangu emerged winner – beating Nigerian Chinelo Okparanta, author of ‘Happiness, Like Water‘ and South African Nadia Davids, author of ‘An Imperfect Blessing’.

At the third edition held at Intercontinental Lagos Hotel, on 19th March 2016, Poet and novelist Fiston Mwanza Mujila was announced winner of the 2015 edition for his first novel, ‘Tram 83’. Originally written in French, Tram 83 was translated into English by Roland Glasser and published by Deep Vellum. Fiston Mujila fend off competition from two South African writers: Penny Busetto ‘The Story of Anna P, as Told by Herself’ and Rehana Rossouw ‘What Will People Say’. 35-year-old Mujila was the first Francophone writer to win the prestigious prize, and this can be seen as a good omen for Nigeria.

For the 2016 edition, two Nigerians have made the final shortlist. The three shortlisted books are: ‘The Seed Thief’ by Jacqui L’Ange (South Africa), ‘And After many Days’ by Jowhor Ile (Nigeria), ‘Mr. & Mrs. Doctor’ by Julie Iromuanya (Nigeria). The winner will be announced in March.
As part of the benefits the winner enjoy, 1000 copies of the book will be bought by Etisalat and distributed to schools to encourage reading culture among students. But given the present economic realities of Nigeria and the exchange rate, one can safely say that 15,000 pounds will go a long way in helping a Nigerian author.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    No comments found.