Etisalat is set to make another African author $23,000 richer

After two years of celebrating debut African writers, Etisalat has continued to discover talent while invariably promoting Africa’s publishing industry by challenging authors across the continent. The telecommunications giant recently announced the call for entries for the 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature.

Matthew Willsher, the Chief Executive Officer, Etisalat Nigeria highlighted that following the success of the second edition of the prize giving, the literary community is eagerly awaiting the third edition. Young writers look forward to this event not only for the cash prize but as an opportunity to promote their published fiction.

The winner receives a cash prize of £15,000 in addition to a fellowship at the University of East Anglia. The winner will also receive a sponsored three-city book tour while the two other short-listed writers will receive a sponsored two-city book tour to promote their books. The Etisalat Prize for Literature is also an opportunity to impact on many lives. The project supports publishers by purchasing 1000 copies of all short-listed books which are donated to various schools, book clubs and libraries throughout Africa. This seeks to address the poor publishing situation in countries like Nigeria where low-quality published materials are being studied in schools.

Many have been curious as to why this Nigerian-based literary award has only benefited other African writers despite the depth of talent in the country. One major reason comes to mind; authors struggle to get their work published and as such resort to self-publishing which may not be the most effective strategy.

Considering the fact that this prize is given based on the first published novel or collection of short stories by an author, it is a level playing field for all entrants. What happens if a book isn’t deemed good enough to win the Etisalat Prize for Literature? The answer is simple-you don’t win.

Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo won the maiden edition with her highly celebrated début novel, We Need New Names, while Songeziwe Mahlangu emerged winner of the second year of the prize with his novel, Penumbra.

The upcoming edition presents another chance for Nigerians and other creative writing talents to emerge winners. However this will not be easy as they will be facing a panel of very intellectual and critical judges. The Judging panel for the 2015 edition will be chaired by Professor Ato Quayson, a Professor of English and inaugural Director of the Centre for Diaspora Studies at the University of Toronto; alongside Molara Wood, writer, blogger, journalist, critic and editor and Zukiswa Wanner, author of The Madams and Men of the South.

Entries must be a writer’s first work of fiction of over 30,000 words, and published within the last 24 months. The Etisalat Prize will also launch the online-based flash fiction prize later in the year to engage the rising stars of fiction. Entries close August 27, 2015–may the best book win!

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