The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing has announced the shortlist for the 2021 edition. Not only is it perhaps the most exciting and diverse shortlist yet, it is also full of surprises. Writers from Ethiopia, Kenya, Namibia and Uganda are represented.

In an extremely rare occurrence and for the very first time in a really long while, there is no Nigerian or South African (otherwise Caine Prize favorites) on the list. Also worthy of note is the dominant presence of new online journals based on the continent, in particular Lolwe and Doek!, on the list. Interestingly, the editors of both magazines are shortlisted for their short stories published in the other’s magazine.

The 2021 shortlist also include three previously shortlisted writers. Doreen Baingana (Uganda) was twice shortlisted in 2004 and 2005, Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) in 2019, and Remy Ngamije (Namibia) in 2020.

The winner of the £10,000 prize will be announced via a specially curated virtual award in July. Each shortlisted writer will also receive £500.

Follow the links below to read the stories. [See below for author bios.]

  • Doreen Baingana (Uganda) for “Lucky” published in Ibua Journal Online in Kampala, Uganda (2021). Read the story here
  • Meron Hadero (Ethiopia) for ‘The Street Sweep’ published in ZYZZYVA, Ethiopia, 2018. Read the story here.
  • Rémy Ngamije (Namibia) for ‘The Giver of Nicknames’ published in Lolwe, Kenya, 2020. Read the story here. 
  • Troy Onyango (Kenya) for ‘This Little Light of Mine’ published in Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia, 2020. Read the story here. 
  • Iryn Tushabe (Uganda) for ‘A Seperation’ published in EXILE Quarterly, Canada 2018. Read the story here.

The judging panel for the 2021 prize, chaired by Ugandan novelist and Founder/Director of the African Writers Trust (AWT) Goretti Kyomuhendo, included Ugandan-born journalist and BBC World News Presenter Razia Iqbal, Nigerian multimedia artist, photographer and writer Victor Ehikhamenor, Zimbabwean-born independent broadcast journalist Georgina Godwin, and Ugandan poet Nick Makoha.

Kyomuhendo made some remarks on the considerations that went into the selection of shortlisted stories: 

“We were looking for literary excellence and great stories. It is clear that the wealth of stories presented to the Prize speak about the African experience from a multitude of perspectives and forms, while often centering the themes of love, loss, identity, hope and afterlife.

“It has been hugely encouraging to see consistently excellent editing throughout the stories put to our judgment, and we have enthusiastically noticed a large number of submissions from homegrown literary journals from the continent this year.

“What comes across vividly in this year’s shortlisted stories, through their impressive craft and intelligent language is their ability to resonate profoundly with the reader. My fellow judges and I were reminded, once again, of the redemptive power of stories. These remarkable five narratives all exemplify, with delicacy and truth, what good fiction is.

“Intermingling politics and humour, brutality and love, loss and hope, each of these stories poignantly convey images of the continent and its diaspora that demand to be read. The true art of African storytelling is manifested in the voices of these five exceptional pieces.”

The 2021 shortlist was gleaned from 153 submissions from 22 African countries via the new online submissions platform this year.

The judges will meet later in June or July to deliberate on a winner.

Congratulations to the shortlisted authors!



Doreen Baingana is a Ugandan writer. Her short story collection, Tropical Fish, won the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and the Commonwealth Prize for Best First Book, Africa Region. Two stories in it were nominated for the Caine Prize (2004 & 2005). She has also published two children’s books as well as stories and essays in numerous international journals. Other awards include a Miles Morland Scholarship, a Rockefeller Bellagio Residency, a Tebere Arts Foundation Playwright’s Residency, and in 2021, a Sustainable Arts Foundation grant. She co-founded and runs the Mawazo Africa Writing Institute, based in Entebbe, Uganda.

Meron Hadero is an Ethiopian-American who was born in Addis Ababa and came to the U.S. via Germany as a young child. She is the winner of the 2020 Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. Her short stories have been shortlisted for the 2019 Caine Prize for African Writing and published in Zyzzyva, Ploughshares, Addis Ababa Noir, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, New England Review, Best American Short Stories, among others. Her writing has also been in The New York Times Book Review, The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives, and will appear in the forthcoming anthology Letter to a Stranger: Essays to the Ones Who Haunt Us. A 2019-2020 Steinbeck Fellow at San Jose State University, she’s been a fellow at Yaddo, Ragdale, and MacDowell, and her writing has been supported by the International Institute at the University of Michigan, the Elizabeth George Foundation, and Artist Trust. Meron is an alum of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where she worked as a research analyst for the President of Global Development, and holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Michigan, a JD from Yale, and a BA in history from Princeton with a certificate in American Studies.

Rémy Ngamije is a Rwandan-born Namibian writer and photographer. He is the founder, chairperson, and artministrator of Doek, an independent arts organisation in Namibia supporting the literary arts. He is also the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Doek! Literary Magazine, Namibia’s first and only literary magazine. His debut novel “The Eternal Audience Of One” is forthcoming from Scout Press (S&S) in August, 2021. His work has appeared in The Johannesburg Review of BooksAmerican ChordataLolwe, and many other publications. He is the Africa Regional Winner of the 2021 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and was shortlisted for the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing in 2020. He was also longlisted for the 2020 and 2021 Afritondo Short Story Prizes. In 2019 he was shortlisted for Best Original Fiction by Stack Magazines. More of his writing can be read on his website:

Troy Onyango is the founder and editor-in-chief of Lolwe. His work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Wasafari, Johannesburg Review of Books, Nairobi Noir, Caine Prize Anthology and Transition among others. The winner of the inaugural Nyanza Literary Festival Prize and first runner-up in the Black Letter Media Competition, he has also been shortlisted for the Short Story Day Africa Prize, the Brittle Paper Awards, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He holds an MA in Creative Writing with distinction from the University of East Anglia, where he was a recipient of the Miles Morland Foundation Scholarship.

Iryn Tushabe is a Ugandan-Canadian writer and journalist. Her creative nonfiction has appeared in Briarpatch Magazine, Adda, and Prairies North. Her short fiction has appeared in Grain Magazine, the Carter V. Cooper Short Fiction Anthology, and in The Journey Prize Stories 30. The winner of the 2020 City of Regina Writing Award, she’s currently finishing her debut novel, Everything is Fine Here.