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. In the eighteen months since, nothing else was heard.

An announcement of resignation was made earlier today by 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.

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9Mobile has now released a statement, likely prompted by a Johannesburg Review of Books report on the prize’s demise. Its statement was released before the Patrons’. See below.

9mobile Restates Commitment to Redeem 2018 Prize for Literature

Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS) wishes to reiterate its commitment to the development and promotion of talents and assures of fulfilling its commitment to the finalist of the 2018 edition of the 9mobile Prize for Literature.

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The winner from the shortlist for the 2018 edition of the 9mobile Prize for Literature competition comprising What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a Nigerian; Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo, also a Nigerian; and Asylum by Marcus Low from South Africa, will be announced soon.

The Executive Management of 9mobile will like to sincerely thank all the eminent scholars that have served as the Patrons and Judges of the 9mobile Prize for Literature initiative for their excellent service over the years since the debut of this flagship literary Prize in 2013.

The 9mobile Prize for Literature, launched in 2013, is the first pan-African literary Prize that celebrates African first-time writers of published fiction. It is open solely to writers from African countries, resident anywhere in the world. Zimbabwe’s NoViolet Bulawayo won the inaugural edition of the prize in 2014 with We Need New Names, while South African novelist Songeziwe Mahlangu won with Penumbra in 2015. Fiston Mwanza Mujila from the Democratic Republic of Congo won in 2016 with Tram 83, and in 2017 Nigeria’s Jowhor Ile won for his first book And After Many Days.

Signed:

Layi Onafowokan

Acting Director, Marketing, 9mobile