Philipo Oyaro and Fatuma Salim.

The winners for the 2023 Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature are out. Philipo Oyaro won in the Fiction category, and Fatuma Salim won in the Poetry category.  This is the very first time a woman has won in the poetry category. Both writers hail from Tanzania and received prize money of USD $5,000 each

The Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature was founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree and Dr. Mukoma Wa Ngugi to recognize writing in African languages and encourage translation from, between, and into African languages. The Prize is supported by Safal Group, through its subsidiaries Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya, and ALAF Tanzania, the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University, and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation.

The winners were awarded by Dr Caroline Asiimwe, Executive Secretary of the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC) at a special ceremony at the Movenpick Residences in Westlands, Nairobi.

Philipo Oyaro won in the Fiction category for his novel Dunia Duara (The Earth is Round), a crime detective story that employs technology in unravelling crimes. Fatuma Salim’s poetry collection Changa La Macho (Sand in the Eyes) emerged as the winner in the Poetry category.  The need to create a new, just society is a dominant theme in Salim’s collection, employing multiple poetic personas, ad visual and figurative language.

This year’s judges panel included the chair Prof Kyallo W. Wamitila of the University of Nairobi, Dr Zuhura Badru of the University of Dodoma, and Mr Ali Mwalim Rashid of the State University of Zanzibar.

On behalf of the panel of judges, Prof Wamitila commended the 2023 entrants for the high quality of their writing, saying that it made it very difficult for the judges to pick out the first-place winners from the shortlist:

This is sufficient evidence that we have a great treasure of creativity, especially among young people, that transcends the boundaries of each country, and which if sprinkled with the basics of writing and publishing literary works will greatly strengthen Kiswahili literature.

Each winner received USD 5,000, while the runners-up receive USD 2,500 each. In addition to the prizes, winning fiction entries will also be considered for publication by Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in Tanzania while the winning poetry will be translated to English and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.

Check out the winners below:


1st Prize – Philipo Oyaro – Dunia Duara (Tanzania)

2nd Prize – Ahmad Simba – Safari Ya Maisha (Tanzania)


1st Prize – Fatuma Salim – Changa La Macho (Tanzania)

2nd Prize – Lenard Mtesigwa – Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba (Tanzania)


Fiction: Nicholas Ogal – Salome Anaishi (Kenya)

Poetry: John Karithi – Ushairi Wa Maisha Ya Kesho (Kenya)

Short Story Collections

Edwin Omindo – Mtoto Wa Mama Na Hadithi Nyingine (Kenya)

Stallone Joyfully – Koti La Karani Na Hadithi Nyingine (Tanzania)

Congrats to the winners and runners-up!