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9mobile restates commitment to prize

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
28 July 2019   |   3:02 am
The Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS) has reiterated its commitment to the development and promotion of talents and assured of fulfilling its obligations to 2018 finalists of the 9mobile Prize for Literature.

2018 Winner To Emerge Soon

The Emerging Markets Telecommunication Services Limited (EMTS) has reiterated its commitment to the development and promotion of talents and assured of fulfilling its obligations to 2018 finalists of the 9mobile Prize for Literature.

In a statement issued on Thursday, July 25, 2019, Layi Onafowokan, acting Director, Marketing, 9mobile, said winner from the 2018 edition shortlists would be announced soon.

What it Means When a Man Falls Down from the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah, a Nigerian; Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo, also a Nigerian; and Asylum by Marcus Low from South Africa are in the race for the prize.

The shortlist of three books was released back in January 2018, and the winner expected to be revealed around March of that year, which made critical stakeholders reach out to prize adjudicators on its status.

Organisers, last year, had stated: “We are just concluding the process of 9mobile ownership change hence the delay in the announcement of the 2018 winner. We are hopeful that we will confirm a date for the announcement before the end of the third quarter.”

The award was launched in 2013 as the Etisalat Prize for Literature, founded by telecommunications company Etisalat Nigeria, billing itself as the “first-ever pan-African prize celebrating first-time writers of published fiction books.”

In August 2017, the company was renamed 9mobile, and the award name changed at the same time. Some feared that the financial crisis faced by the company would threaten the award, but company management was quick to allay those fears.

In the statement announcing the prize name change, 9mobile Chief Executive Officer Boye Olusanya said: “9mobile is proud to be at the forefront of promoting creativity and innovation among Nigerians and will continue to support the discovery and growth of homegrown talents by creating platforms that help African writers to tell authentic African stories.”

The company had said reassuringly at the time that “while we go through this phase, we plan to remain true to those two pillars: continued excellent quality service on the network and our support on the corporate social responsibility side. As you may have seen, we have indeed advertised for entries for the 2018 prize for literature.”

Past winners of the 9mobile Prize received £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück pen, a book tour to three African cities, and an Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, under the mentorship of Professor Giles Foden, author of The Last King of Scotland.

In addition, the company pledged to buy 1,000 copies of each shortlisted book, a significant number of sales for a fiction author, and the shortlisted authors were also rewarded with a book tour.

A flash fiction competition, the Etisalat Flash Fiction Prize, was launched at the same time as the main prize, with £1,000 and a ‘high-end device’ as its prize.

Onafowokan said the executive management thanked all the eminent scholars that have served as patrons and judges of the 9mobile Prize for Literature initiative for their excellent service over the years since the debut of this flagship literary Prize in 2013.

The prize was decided by high profile judges from around the continent, and it entered the African literary space as a behemoth, prize money-wise.

By comparison, the Caine Prize for African Writing, awarded for a short story, is worth £10,000. The Nigeria Prize for Literature, which rotates among four genres (fiction, poetry, drama and children’s literature), is worth $100,000 (about £78,600) but is only open to Nigerian citizens.

Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo won the inaugural prize in February 2014 for her novel We Need New Names. Subsequent winners were South Africa’s Songeziwe Mahlangu for Penumbra (2014), Democratic Republic of Congo’s Fiston Mwanza Mujila for Tram 83 (2015) and Jowhor Ile of Nigeria for And After Many Days (2016).

When the prize was launched, organisers had lofty ambitions: “The prize aims to serve as a platform for the discovery of new creative talent out of the continent and invariably promote the burgeoning publishing industry in Africa.

“By recognising and celebrating writers and other members of the literary community across Africa, we plan to bring some much-needed awareness and acclaim to the art of Fiction writing while also applauding and rewarding the efforts of those who have ventured into this genre in recent times.”