Announcement of 2023 Winners

Friday 9th February 2024, Nairobi, Kenya… The winners of the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature 2023 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.

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 2023 judges; 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, selected Philipo Oyaro’s novel Dunia Duara (The Earth is Round), as the winner in the Fiction category, and Fatuma Salim’s poetry collection Changa La Macho (Sand in the Eyes) as the winner in the Poetry category. They both received prize money of US $5,000 Dollars each. This is the first time a woman has won in the poetry category.

Dunia Duara (The Earth is Round) is a crime detective story that employs technology in unravelling crimes; it has credible characters, powerful descriptive language and makes effective use of suspense.

The need to create a new, just society is a dominant theme in the anthology Changa La Macho (Sand in the Eyes), that employs multiple poetic personas, visual and figurative language. A good fusion of form and content.

In her speech, Dr Asiimwe congratulated the winners and praised the management of the Prize, its board, and the sponsors, led by Safal Group, for their important work in promoting literature in African languages, particularly Kiswahili.

The CEO of Safal Group, Mr. Anders Lindgren, also spoke at the ceremony and highlighted the importance of the Kiswahili language in the development of the East African region. “Through our support of these awards, The Safal Group is firmly committed to the course of African languages. I commend the SAFAL-MRM Foundation for organising the awards this year.”

On behalf of the panel of judges, Prof Wamitila (chair) 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. “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,” added Prof Wamatila.

Mr. Walter Bgoya of Mkuki na Nyota Publishers, the official publisher of the winning manuscripts, said, “The Safal-Cornell Award has raised talented writers in the field of literature since it was established in 2014, and there is no doubt that it has given writers inspiration and made the award ceremonies a day of great joy in the lives of those who are lucky enough to win.”

The second-place winner in the Fiction category was Ahmad Simba (Tanzania) for his manuscript Safari Ya Maisha (The Journey of a Lifetime), and in the Poetry category was Lenard Mtesigwa (Tanzania) for his manuscript Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba. Each received 2,500 USD. Both were previously shortlisted in 2022 for different manuscripts.

Safari Ya Maisha (The Journey of a Lifetime) is an aesthetically appealing story with a well-crafted plot. The narration is captivating and enchanting; the reader easily visualizes the images of contemporary life and its challenges like family and local rivalries, crime and racial bigotry.

The anthology Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba, is striking because of its diversity of structural forms, figurative language and tone that fuses well with various topics discussed.

As earlier announced, other shortlisted works and authors were: Salome Anaishi by Nicholas Ogal, and Ushairi Wa Maisha Ya Kesho by John Karithi both from Kenya.

Two Short story collections were also shortlisted, Mtoto Wa Mama Na Hadithi Nyingine by Edwin Omindo (Kenya) and Koti La Karani Na Hadithi Nyingine by Stallone Joyfully (Tanzania).


The winners and their fellow shortlistees were in attendance during the award giving ceremony in Nairobi.

The Prize-winning works and authors are:


1st Prize – Philipo Oyaro – Dunia Duara (Tanzania) $5,000

2nd Prize – Ahmad Simba – Safari Ya Maisha (Tanzania) $2,500


1st Prize – Fatuma Salim – Changa La Macho (Tanzania) $5,000

2nd Prize – Lenard Mtesigwa – Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba (Tanzania) $2,500


Runners Up

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)


Notes to Editors

Kiswahili Prize Award Criteria: The prize is awarded to the best unpublished manuscript the categories of fiction, poetry and memoir, and graphic novels.

In addition to the prizes, winning 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.

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 Safal Group (which include Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd of Kenya and ALAF Limited in Tanzania) is the largest producer of Steel Roofing on the African continent with 36 operations in 12 countries. www.safalgroup.com

Mabati Rolling Mills Ltd (MRM) is a member of the Safal Group and is the largest supplier of Building Solutions in Kenya. Established more than 60 years ago, the company is a leading innovator offering top-of the range products catering for residential, commercial and industrial sectors. MRM’s brands like DUMUZAS ™, RESINCOT ™, VERSATILE™, LIFESTILE™, COVERMAX™, ULTRA-SPAN™ and SAFLOCK700™ are household names that are known and trusted by millions of consumers. www.mabati.com.

The Safal MRM Foundation, based in Mariakani Kenya, is the CSR arm of Mabati Rolling Mills. The Foundation’s mission is alleviation of human suffering and empowerment of communities to better their lives. The Foundation’s programs focus on Education, Health, Shelter and the Environment. www.safalmrmfoundation.org.

ALAF Limited (ALAF) is Tanzania’s leading steel roofing manufacturer. Established in 1960, ALAF has always, and continues to be, a key player in the development of the country’s construction sector. ALAF is a fully integrated operation, not only making steel roofing, but also producing the metal coated coils used by these roofing operations. ALAF manufactures metal tubing and piping for various applications. www.alaf.co.tz

The Africana Studies and Research Center enriches the academic, cultural, and social environments on the Cornell University Ithaca campus. Website: http://www.asrc.cornell.edu

Mkuki na Nyota Publishers is an independent, vibrant Tanzanian imprint publishing relevant, progressive, liberating, affordable and entertaining content. Established in 1991, Mkuki na Nyota Publishers emerged in response to the general absence of high quality, independent publishing in Tanzania. Its mission statement is to publish, “Relevant Books, Affordable Books, and Beautiful Books.” They have successfully published winning titles of the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. http://www.mkukinanyota.com

The Africa Poetry Fund promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa. Website: http://africanpoetrybf.unl.edu/

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o Foundation is powered by the interest and passion to raise the visibility of African Languages in Kenya, Africa and the world, as vehicles for performance, creativity, innovations, and scholarship. It sees African languages as the new intellectual frontier in everything from culture, biological sciences, technology and medicine. http://ngugiwathiongofoundation.org

Board of Trustees: Abdilatif Abdalla (Chair), Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Walter Bgoya, Sarit Shah, Anthony Ng’ang’a, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Clarissa Vierke, Farouk Topan, Carole Boyce Davies, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

Director: Munyao Kilolo.

Website: http://blogs.cornell.edu/kiswahiliprize/

Twitter Handle: @KiswahiliPrize

Instagram: @thekiswahiliprize

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mabati-Cornell-Kiswahili-Prize-for-AfricanLiterature/1534905843433822

Contact information: Munyao Kilolo, Lizzy Attree, Mukoma wa Ngugi – kiswahiliprize@cornell.edu


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