Commonwealth Prize

Established in 1987, the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize is considered  one of the leading awards in the literary world. The prize aims to encourage new Commonwealth fiction, and to ensure that works of merit reach a wider audience outside their country of origin. True to its aims, the award has long served as a platform for African writers seeking to reach an international audience. Awards are presented for two categories, Best Book and Best First Book at regional and overall winner levels.

Below, we present writers (and books) from Africa that have won prizes under different categories over the years.

Overall Winners

Festus Iyayi

Festus Iyayi (Source: Sun News)

Only five African writers have won the Commonwealth Overall Winner prize since its inception. Sierra Leonean Aminatta Forna won the 2011 prize for her book, The Memory of Love. Nigerian writer, Festus Iyayi received the 1987 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for his book, “Heroes” becoming the first African writer to ever win this prestigious award.  Acclaimed South African author J. M. Coetzee was the second winner, receiving the prize in 2000 for his book “Disgrace”.

Two other writers, Manu Herbstein (South Africa) for his book, Ama, A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for her book, Purple Hibiscus won the Overall Winner Prize for Best First Book in 2002 and 2005 respectively.

Regional Winners for Best Book Category (1988-2010)

  • 2011: The Memory of Love by Aminatta Forna (Sierra Leone)
  • 2010: The Double Crown by Marié Heese (South Africa)
  • 2009: The Lost Colours of the Chameleon by Mandla Langa (South Africa)
  • 2008: The Hangman’s Game by Karen King-Aribisala(Nigeria)
  • 2007: The Native Commissioner by Shaun Johnson (South Africa)
  • 2006: The Sun by Night by Benjamin Kwakye (Ghana)
  • 2005: Boy by Lindsey Collen (South Africa)
  • 2004: The Good Doctor by Damon Galgut (South Africa)
  • 2003: The Other Side of Silence by Andre Brink (South Africa)
  • 2002: The Pickup by Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
  • 2001: The Heart of Redness by Zakes Mda (South Africa)
  • 2000: Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (South Africa)
  • 1999: If You Can Walk, You Can Dance by Marion Molteno (South Africa)
  • 1998: Walking Still by Charles Mungoshi (Zimbabwe)
  • 1997: Under the Tongue by Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe)
  • 1996: NO SELECTION
  • 1995: The Master of Petersburg by J. M. Coetzee(South Africa)
  • 1994: The Rape of Sita by Lindsey Collen (Mauritius)
  • 1993: Tides by Isidore Okpewho (Nigeria)
  • 1992: Changes by Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)
  • 1991: The Last Harmattan of Alusine Dunbar by  Syl Cheney-Coker (Sierra Leone)
  • 1990: Harvest of Thorns by Shimmer Chinoyda (Zimbabwe)
  • 1989: Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)
  • 1988: Heroes by Festus Iyayi (Nigeria)
  • 1987: A Forest of Flowers by Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria)
  • 1987: Incidents at the Shrine by Ben Okri (Nigeria)

Regional Winners for Best First Book Category (1988-2010)

  • 2011: Happiness is a Four Letter Word by Cynthia Jele
  • 2010: I Do Not Come to You By Chance by Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani (Nigeria)
  • 2009: Say You’re One of Them by Uwem Akpan (Nigeria)
  • 2008: Imagine This by Sade Adeniran (Nigeria)
  • 2007: All We Have Left Unsaid by Maxine Case (South Africa)
  • 2006: Tropical Fish: Stories Out of Entebbe by Doreen Baingana (Uganda)
  • 2005: Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria)
  • 2004: Gardening at Night by Diane Awerbuck (South Africa)
  • 2003: Waiting for an Angel by Helon Habila (Nigeria)
  • 2002: Ama: A Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade by Manu Herbstein (South Africa)
  • 2001: Thirteen Cents by K Sello Duiker (South Africa)
  • 2000: The Legend of the Rockhills and Other Stories by Funso Aiyejina (Nigeria)
  • 1999: The Clothes of Nakedness by Benjamin Kwakye (Ghana)
  • 1998: Dance with a Poor Man’s Daughter by Pamela Jooste (South Africa)
  • 1997: At the Edge and other Cato Manor Stories by Ronnie Govender (South Africa)
  • 1996: Winds of Change by Dene Coetzee (South Africa)
  • 1995: The River and the Source by Margaret A. Ogola (Kenya)
  • 1994: Cry a Whisper by Lucy Safo (Ghana)
  • 1993: The Price of Liberty by Paul Conton (Sierra Leone)
  • 1992: Grief Child by Lawrence Darmani (Ghana)
  • 1991: Our Wife and Other Stories by Karen King-Aribisala (Nigeria)
  • 1990: The Gunny Sack by  M.G. Vassanji (Kenya)