Africa39: What have the writers been up to since 2014?

What happened to the Africa 39 writers who were supposed to define the trends that will mark the future development of literature in Africa?

In 2014 for the second time, the continent hosted UNESCO World Book Capital in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. As part of the celebrations, Hay Festival in partnership with local World Book Capital organisers, the Rainbow Book Club initiated a collaborative project called “Africa 39”. The project selected 39 writers under the age of 40 seen to have the potential and the talent to define the trends in future development of literature in Africa. The project had Binyavanga Wainaina perusing hundreds of texts and presenting a longlist of over 100 to a panel that included Elechi Amadi, Tess Onwueme, and Margaret Busby. This final panel then selected who they believed would influence African letters in the future and made the announcement on April 8.

That list was very important to this website as we would encounter many new names from across Africa in different language scenes to watch out for going forward. For a bit of fun, we also published our own Africa 39 list which we felt was more likely to influence the business in the future. It was based on people who this blogger felt would have something to say about the future of the business.

Five years ago, we looked at the progress of these 39 writers under 40 and how they had done since which you can read in two parts here and here. Many of the writers on that list from five years before had already started showing their influence in the business of literature on the continent.

It’s been a decade since that announcement and we felt that it was only fair to look back at what these writers have been up to. In the previous recap, we were generous as influencing cannot be considered an affair that can be achieved in a few years. Writing a book, setting up a literary festival or publishing house can be a very time-intensive affair and the results can take a minute to show. At this point, we should know if this person will be influencing the business. They will have written at least one book (a majority of them had submitted short stories, poetry, or essays to anthologies or magazines but after a decade we would expect a bit more), if they hadn’t written a book or edited an anthology, they would have set up a bookshop, a publishing house, a literary festival, or a combination of these. Please note that every one of the writers on this list is mentoring or training and as such, we cannot use that as a measure of influence as this is not that transformative to a whole industry.

Without further ado, here is what happened to the writers since 2014.


  • Elechi Amadi (Nigeria) – passed on in 2016.
  • Binyavanga Wainaina (Kenya) – passed on in 2019.
  • Tess Onwueme (Nigeria) –

Subject, Emerging Perspectives on Tess Osonye Onwueme: Women, Youth, and Eco-literature edited by Maureen Ngozi Eke

  • Margaret Busby (Ghana/UK)

Publisher, New Daughters of Africa,

President, English PEN,

Founder, Margaret Busby New Daughters of Africa Award,

The writers.

  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi (Nigeria) –

Award winner, Women’s Prize for Literature “Winner of Winners” award.

Writer, We Should All Be Feminists (2014), Writer

Writer, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions (2017).

Writer, Notes on Grief (2021).

Writer, Mama’s Sleeping Scarf (2023).

  • Richard Ali A Mutu (DR Congo)

Writer, Mr. Fix It (2017).

Writer, Et les Portes Sont des Bouches (2021)

  • Rotimi Babatunde (Nigeria)

Playwright: The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives

  • A Igoni Barrett (Nigeria)

Writer: Blackass (2015).  

  • Nana Brew-Hammond (Ghana)  

Writer: Blue: A History of the Color as Deep as the Sea and as Wide as the Sky (2022)

Editor: Relations: An Anthology of African and Diaspora Voices (2023)

Writer: My Parents’ Marriage (2024)

  • Shadreck Chikoti (Malawi) –

Writer: Azotus, the Kingdom (2016).

Founder: Feminarts Literary Festival.

  • Edwige-Renée Dro (Ivory Coast)

Founder: 1949 Books (Abidjan)

Co-Editor: The African Young Adult Anthology Water Birds on the Lake Shore (2019)

  • Tope Folarin (Nigeria/US)

Writer: A Particular Kind of Black Man (2019)

  • Clifton Gachagua (Kenya)

Founder: DRR (Down River Road) (Literary Magazine/Journal)

Writer: Madman at Kilifi (2014)

Winner: Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets

  • Stanley Gazemba (Kenya)

Writer: The Forbidden Fruit (2017)

Writer: Dog Eat Samosa (2019)

Writer: The Ghost Engineer (2023)

  • Hawa Jande Golakai (Liberia)

Writer: The Score (2015)

  • Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria)

Winner: Nigeria Prize for Literature 2016

Writer: Seasons of Crimson Blossom (2015)

Writer: Dreams and Assorted Nightmares (2020)

Writer: When We Were Fireflies (2023)

  • Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia/US)

Writer: Someone Like Us (2024)

  • Nadifa Mohamed (Somalia/UK)

Fellow: Royal Society of Literature 40 Under 40

Writer: The Fortune Men (2021)

Award: Booker Prize, shortlist

  • Nthikeng Mohlele (South Africa)

Writer: Rusty Bell (2014)

Writer: Pleasure (2016)

Writer: Michael K (2018)

Writer: Illumination (2019).

Writer: The Discovery of Love: Stories Book (2021)

Writer: Breasts etc (2023)

  • Linda Musita (Kenya)

Writer: Mtama Road (2023)

  • Sifiso Mzobe (South Africa)  

Writer: Searching for Simphiwe: And Other Stories (2020)

  • Shafinaaz Hassim (South Africa)

Writer: Soul Seeds for Shade and Solitude (2014)

Writer: Nisa Qamar and the Master of Jinniaville (2016)

Writer: The Garden of Love and Longing (2017)

Writer: Princess Rasgulla and the Ponytail Monster (2017)

Writer: Nisa Qamar and the Rainbow Healers’ Society (2018).  

Writer: The Economics of Love & Happiness (2019)

Writer: Nisa Qamar and the Legend of Qawthar (2020)

Writer: The Pink Oysters and other stories (2020)

Writer: Nisa Qamar and the Circle of the Astrolabe (2021)

Writer: A Familiar Odyssey – a family memoir (2021)  

Writer: Darlings of Durban (2024)

  • Okwiri Oduor (Kenya)

Winner: Caine Prize 2014

Writer: Things We Lost (2022)

  • Ukamaka Olisakwe (Nigeria)  

Writer: Ogadinma, or Everything Will Be All Right (2020)

Founder: Isele (Literary Magazine/Journal)

  • Ondjaki (Luanda, Angola/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)

Writer: O céu não sabe dançar sozinho (2014)

Writer: O Carnaval da Kissonde (2015)

Writer: Os modos do mármore (2015)

Writer: Verbetes para um dicionário afetivo (2015)

Writer: O convidador de pirilampos (2017)

Writer: Há gente em casa (2018)

Writer: a estória do Sol e do Rinoceronte (2020)

Writer: o livro do Deslembramento (2020)

Publisher: Kacimbo

Founder: Kiela

  • Chibundu Onuzo (Nigeria)  

Writer: Sankofa (2021)

Writer: Furies: Stories of the Wicked, Wild and Untamed (2023)

Writer: Mayowa and the Sea of Words (2024)

  • Nii Ayikwei Parkes (Ghana/UK)

Writer: Tales from Africa (2017)

Writer: The Ga Picture Alphabet (2020)

Writer: The Geez: Poems (2020)

Writer: Azukar (2023)

Editor: Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (2018)

  • Taiye Selasi (Ghana/Nigeria/UK/Italy)

Writer: Love Your Curls: A poetic tribute to curly hair inspired by real women (2015).

Writer: Anansi and the Golden Pot (2022)

  • Namwali Serpell (Zambia/US)

Winner: Caine Prize (2015)

Winner: Anisfield-Wolf Book Award

Winner: Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction 

Winner: Arthur C. Clarke Award 

Winner: Grand Prix of Literary Associations: Belles-Lettres            

Winner: Windham–Campbell Literature Prize for Fiction

Writer: Seven Modes of Uncertainty (2014)

Writer: The Old Drift (2019)

Writer: The Furrows (2022)

  • Lola Shoneyin (Nigeria)

Founder: Ouida Books

Founder: Ouida Shop

Founder: Kaduna Festival (Kaba Fest)

Winner: Aficionado Award

Writer: Mayowa and the Masquerades (2021)

  • Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (Zimbabwe/South Africa)

Writer: House of Stone (2019)

Writer: Digging Stars (2023)

Winner: Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards  

  • Chika Unigwe (Nigeria/Belgium/US)

Writer: Better Never Than Late (2020)

Writer: The Middle Daughter (2023)

  • Zukiswa Wanner (South Africa)

Winner: South African Literary Awards

Winner: Goethe Medal (Returned)

Writer: London Cape Town Joburg (2014)

Writer: Refilwe (2015)

Writer: Hardly Working (2018)

Writer: Africa (A True Book: The Seven Continents) (2019)

Writer: The Black Pimpernel: Nelson Mandela On The Run (2022)

Writer: Vignettes of a People in an Apartheid State (2023)

Editor: We, The Scarred by Mukoma Wa Ngugi (2020)

Editor: The Daughters of Nandi by Nokuthula Mazibuko Msimang (2022)

Editor: The Heart is a Bastard (2023)

Editor: Loose Ties by Yara Nakahanda Monteiro (2022)

Founder: Paivapo Publishing

  • Mary Watson (South Africa/Ireland)

Writer: The Wren Hunt (2018)  

Writer: The Wickerlight (2019)

Writer: Blood to Poison (2022)

  • Mohamed Yunus Rafiq (Tanzania): N/A
  • Monica Arac de Nyeko (Uganda): N/A
  • Eileen Barbosa (Cape Verde): N/A
  • Jackee Budesta Batanda (Uganda): N/A
  • Mehul Gohil (Kenya): N/A
  • Stanley Onjezani Kenani (Malawi/Switzerland): N/A
  • Recaredo Silevo Boturu (Equatorial Guinea): N/A
  • Glaydah Namukasa (Uganda): N/A
  • Ndinda Kioko (Kenya): N/A






3 responses to “Africa39: What have the writers been up to since 2014?”

  1. Shafinaaz Hassim avatar
    Shafinaaz Hassim

    Soul Seeds for Shade and Solitude (2014)
    Nisa Qamar and the Master of Jinniaville (2016)
    The Garden of Love and Longing (2017)
    Princess Rasgulla and the Ponytail Monster (2017)
    Nisa Qamar and the Rainbow Healers’ Society (2018)
    The Economics of Love & Happiness (2019)
    Nisa Qamar and the Legend of Qawthar (2020)
    The Pink Oysters and other stories (2020)
    Nisa Qamar and the Circle of the Astrolabe (2021)
    A Familiar Odyssey – a family memoir (2021)
    Darlings of Durban (2024)

    Founder: BookBytes by Shafinaaz

    1. James Murua avatar
      James Murua

      You have been busy!

      1. Shafinaaz avatar

        An attempt to survive a pandemic. The arts kept us alive.

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