Africa39 is calling all Fiction Writers under 39 from Africa South of the Sahara and the Diaspora

Binyavanga Wainaina sent this urgent tweet at the beginning of this week

Africa39 is a   “ huge opportunity for a new generation of writers”.

I’ve quoted the entire contents of the Google Doc file below as there is too much goodness contained in the document.  I note especially the inclusion of African languages, “an openness to non-traditional ideas (self-published, online mags, blogs) on what considered is a ‘published writer ‘,  inclusion of all genres and types of fiction and inclusion of ‘at-risk’ writers.  Plus, at least 50% of the list will be women writers.

I also note the exclusion of North Africans and emerging writers over the age of 40. (It’s getting tricky and Pandora-ish).


The announcement on Google Docs is here and it says:

“I write to you with some urgency. I have recently been contracted to put together a long-list of 120 of most promising fiction authors under the age of 40 from Africa South of the Sahara and diaspora.

This is a huge undertaking and will lead to an announcement of 39 of the most promising African writers under the age of 40 in April 2014. Time is of the essence.

I have to submit this longlist by the 15th of December 2013. I would like to encourage all published fiction writers who qualify to apply.

As many of you may have heard, Port Harcourt City in Rivers State, Nigeria has been conferred the status of UNESCO World Book Capital in 2014. It is the first African city south of the Sahara to be given such status.

The Port Harcourt Book Fair (PHBF) is an initiative of the Governor of Rivers State, Nigeria and is an event for writers, book sellers, literary connoisseurs and all major players in the book industry.

The PHBF in 2014 with Port Harcourt as the World Book Capital City will therefore be a major pan-African and international literary event which will significantly advance the state of literacy, literature, and publishing in Africa.

I am asking you please to distribute this application document to your contacts, mailing lists, writers, media, and other relevant networks and forums.

PLEASE refer all replies & queries ONLY to:

All updates will be posted on twitter @africa39list and you are advised to check regularly.

This details in this document may be modified slightly and you are advised to refer to this document before submitting your work.

What is Africa39 Project?

The Africa39 Project has been set up as a key part of the programs and celebrations of Port Harcourt UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.  In April 2014, Africa39 will announce 39 of the most promising African writers of fiction under the age of 40.

The Africa39 Project is a partnership between the Hay Festival of Literature & the Arts Ltd., UK; and the Rainbow Book Club (Port Harcourt, Nigeria).

The Africa39 Project will contact and liaise with African literary prizes, writers groups, literary magazines, and literary festivals.

I understand this is coming to you at short notice. As you imagine this undertaking is huge, and I have only recently become involved in this project. This is a huge opportunity for a new generation of writers, and I urge you to encourage as many as possible to submit an application consideration.

Important Note:The Spirit of the Africa39 Project

Africa39 seeks to produce a possible snapshot of our shared African future.

We have entered into this long-list making project with an openness to non-traditional ideas on what is “a published writer”, and are therefore open, even in this short time, to discover adventurous young Africans who will redefine our literary ecosystem in the future.

This process is guaranteed to be flawed as such processes always are.

At least 50% of the final long-list will be women writers. If, as we suspect, the percentage of the number of women in the list is 65%, then we will have reason to celebrate.

We cannot ignore the fact that we live in a continent where sexual and other minorities are most often not free to express their imaginations.

This long-list seeks to imagine the best possible and most diverse literary ecosystem and we shall not be afraid to be inclusive and provocative where such necessities arise.

Some countries have a recent vibrant writing culture in African languages. The long-list panel is committed to reserving a minimum of 25 places in the long-list for writers under 40 who have written fiction in any African language.

Writers of children’s fiction, prose fiction blogs, erotica writers, romance—the wild, weird, explorers of the imagination, are all encouraged to participate. Whatever your broadest idea of prose fiction is, you will be considered. If you are not sure, simply apply.

We are keen to engage with writers who write under pseudonyms and do so for issues of their own safety and creative freedom. If you are a fiction writer at risk for any of these reasons, please contact with the subject line “At risk”.

If you publish anonymously, you are still encouraged to submit your work though we will need to know your identity.

We are willing to create an infrastructure to assess any writing done in Braille.

We are keen to promote work that highlights the full diversity and complexity of our continent.


Rules for Applicants.

  • Writers may apply on their own behalf
  • Agents and publishers can apply on behalf of writers in their stable.
  • Writers must be under 40 years of age  (born after January 1st, 1974).
  • Writers must have published at least one work of fiction.
  • By “published” we mean that you should have published a piece of fiction in print (including self-published) or on-line (including blogs).  The piece you submit for the Africa39 project, however, need not have already been published; it may be a new piece.
  • We are keen to promote writers who show promise.
  • The judges’ decision is final and they will not enter into any correspondence with entrants regarding their decisions.
  • This prize is open only to African writers.
  • By African writer we mean that you are a resident of; or were born in one of the countries listed below.  By African writers, we also mean that any writer who has one or more parents from any of these countries:  Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria,  Réunion, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Saint Helena, São Tomé and Príncipe Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
  • Writers from the Diaspora(s) of any one or more of the countries listed above are encouraged to apply.
  • The author must provide the following essential information on the cover page:
    • full name, date of birth, country of origin.
    • contact details: e-mail, telephone number (including country-code), twitter handle.
    • a 200 word biography.
    • a short bibliography of your published literary work.
  • The author must also attach:
    • a scanned copy of the biographical page from one of the following: your passport,your official national identification card,or your driver’s licence.
    • a square author photograph in .png format  minimum of 180×180 pixels.
  • The deadline for ALL submissions is midnight (East African Time/GMT+3) Dec 10th, 2013.
  • ALL applicant submissions should be made VIA EMAIL ONLY TO:
  • All questions should be directed ONLY to this email address:  or on Twitter @africa39list
  • Please ensure your submissions keep strictly to the guidelines and application criteria we have provided in this document.

Application Criteria

  • Applicants must submit one creative piece, that they feel is their strongest work of fiction. This may be a short story, or an excerpt of a longer work of fiction. We are open to creative non-fiction submissions, or an excerpt of a non-fiction novel.
    • The submitted piece must be no longer than 5000 words.
    • The submitted piece must be typed, double-spaced, and delivered ONLY in Times New Roman, 12pt.
    • The submitted creative piece must only be sent as TWO document attachments, each with a cover page containing the details specified in the rules.
    • One of the TWO document attachments must be a Microsoft Word (.doc) file, and another must be a Adobe Portable Document format (.pdf) file.
    • These two documents should have page numbers.
    • Please ensure your submissions keep strictly to the guidelines we have given.
    • With each creative submission, make sure to include, after the cover page, a 500 word synopsis if the submission is an excerpt of a larger work.
    • We strongly encourage submissions of work in African languages. If there is no professionally produced literary translation of creative submission in an African language, we will arrange to have one done.
    • Translations into English of creative submissions originally written in French/German/Spanish/Portuguese or other language are welcome.
    • Where necessary, we will arrange for professional literary translations of creative submissions into English.
  • ALL Submissions, as well as queries, should be e-mailed to:
  • Submissions will be read by a panel headed by Binyavanga Wainaina which will submit  a long-list of 120 authors to the final judges by 15th December 2013.
  • The distinguished judging panel will include the following eminent literary figures: Elechi Amadi, Tess Onwueme, and Margaret Busby.
  • The judges will select the final 39 winners from this long-list of 120, and announce them in April 2014 at the London Bookfair and in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
  • Rainbow Book Club and Hay Festival will contact the 39 authors selected for the Africa39 Project to inform them that they have been selected, and to commission from each, a short story or extract that will be published in the anthology. The prestigious publishing house Bloomsbury is committed to publishing the anthology in English by October 2014 if the commissioned works by the authors are ready by end of March 2014.
  • Nobel Prize winner Professor Wole Soyinka will write the introduction to the anthology.
  • Renowned editor, Ellah Allfrey (OBE), will edit the anthology.
  • The judges’ decision is final and under no circumstances will they enter into any correspondence with entrants regarding their decisions.
  • The copyright of each submission remains with its owner.”


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