The Etisalat Prize for Literature was founded in 2012 by the telecommunications company Etisalat Nigeria. Worth £15,000, it recognized the best debut book by an African writer. It was won by Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo in 2014, for We Need New Names; South Africa’s Songheziwe Mahlangu in 2015, for Penumbra; the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila in 2016, for Tram 83; and Nigeria’s Jowhor Ile in 2017, for And After Many Days. In 2017, following a change of name by its founder, the prize became the 9Mobile Prize for Literature. In January 2018, a shortlist was announced: Nigeria’s Lesley Nneka Arimah, for What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky; Nigeria’s Ayobami Adebayo, for Stay with Me; and South Africa’s Marcus Low, for Asylum. Since then, nothing else was heard.

This is a press release from the Founding Patrons of the Prize: the Ghanaian writer Ama Ata Aidoo; the Zimbabwean editor, critic, and chair of the Caine Prize Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, OBE; New Daughters of Africa editor and Africa Writes Lifetime Achievement Award winner Margaret Busby, OBE; the Nigerian novelist Sarah Ladipo Manyika; the South African novelist Zakes Mda; and the Nigerian Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Dele Olojede.

Their intention, Allfrey tells Brittle Paper, is simply “the positive resolution of the 2018 Prize for the shortlisted writers.”

See their statement below.

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An Announcement from the Founding Patrons of the Etisalat / 9Mobile Prize for Literature

In 2012, under the leadership of the Etisalat High Value Events & Sponsorships department, we the undersigned accepted an invitation to serve as Founding Patrons of the Etisalat Prize for African Literature. It is a source of great pride for us all that within a few short years the Prize was established as an internationally recognised literary award for African writing and that the annual announcement cycle became a noted part of the literary calendar.

With the transition from Etisalat to 9Mobile we understood there would be a period of change and adjustment. However, it is with dismay and sadness then, that we have watched over the last two years as what was fast becoming an institution has been allowed to disappear without any announcement or explanation from the sponsors.

It is with deep regret that we must acknowledge the demise of what was an important initiative in supporting and celebrating the best of African cultural and literary output.

In January 2018 a shortlist of three books was announced. The date for the announcement of the winner was never announced – indeed, 9Mobile has failed to issue any further communication. The writers have been left in limbo and speculation and rumour is rife regarding the fate of the Prize. As Patrons with a deep and abiding commitment to supporting African authors and publishers, we feel this is a situation we cannot allow to continue. We have, earlier this week, contacted the 9Mobile executive to inform them of our resignation with immediate effect.

Signed:

Ama Ata Aidoo

Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, OBE

Margaret Busby, OBE

Sarah Ladipo Manyika

Zakes Mda

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Dele Olojede