The JRB has received a statement from the Board of Patrons of the 9mobile Prize for Literature, indicating their resignation ‘with immediate effect’.
The Patrons, Ama Ata Aidoo, Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Margaret Busby, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Zakes Mda and Dele Olojede, express ‘dismay and sadness’ at how the prize, which was ‘fast becoming an institution’, had ‘been allowed to disappear without any announcement or explanation from the sponsors’.
They have informed The JRB that a letter communicating the contents of their statement was sent to 9mobile earlier this week.
In June this year, The JRB reported that the winner of the 2018 9mobile Prize had not yet been announced. A shortlist of three books had been released in January 2018, and the winner of the £15,000 award was expected to be revealed around March of that year. But communication from prize organisers to the shortlisted writers, Ayọ̀bámi Adébáyọ̀, Lesley Nneka Arimah and Marcus Low, and their publishers, ceased in June 2018.
- Read: The mysterious demise of the 9mobile/Etisalat Prize for Literature—the world’s biggest Pan-African book award
Yesterday, in an apparent response The JRB report, telecommunications company 9mobile sent out a statement saying that the winner of the 2018 edition of the award will be announced ‘soon’, and reiterating its commitment to the development and promotion of literary talent.
- Read: 9mobile releases statement confirming that a winner for the 2018 9mobile Prize for Literature will be announced
A Public Announcement from the Patrons of the 9Mobile/Etisalat Prize for Literature
In 2012, under the leadership of the Etisalat High Value Events and Sponsorships department, we the undersigned accepted an invitation to serve as Founding Patrons of the Etisalat Prize for African Literature. It is a source of great pride for us all that within a few short years the Prize was established as an internationally recognised literary award for African writing and that the annual announcement cycle became a noted part of the literary calendar.
With the transition from Etisalat to 9Mobile we understood there would be a period of change and adjustment. However, it is with dismay and sadness then, that we have watched over the last two years as what was fast becoming an institution has been allowed to disappear without any announcement or explanation from the sponsors.
It is with deep regret that we must acknowledge the demise of what was an important initiative in supporting and celebrating the best of African cultural and literary output.
In January 2018 a shortlist of three books was announced. The date for the announcement of the winner was never announced—indeed, 9mobile has failed to issue any further communication. The writers have been left in limbo and speculation and rumour is rife regarding the fate of the Prize. As Patrons with a deep and abiding commitment to supporting African authors and publishers, we feel this is a situation we cannot allow to continue. We have, earlier this week, contacted the 9mobile executive to inform them of our resignation with immediate effect.
Ama Ata Aidoo
Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, OBE
Margaret Busby, OBE
Sarah Ladipo Manyika