The Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature – Supported by ALAF Limited

The 2016 Winners of the Mabati Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature was announced (December 14th, 2016) by chair of the board of trustees, Abdilatif Abdalla. The prize, founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree (Caine Prize Director) and Dr. Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University) has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.

The 2016 Winners are:

1. Idrissa Haji Abdalla (Tanzania), for Kilio cha Mwanamke ($5,000)

Born in Uroa village, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Idrissa joined the Tanzanian police force in 1989, and was posted to Pemba North region initially.

In 1998 he joined Taasisi ya Kiswahili na Lugha za Kigeni, Zanzibar, (Institute of Kiswahili and Foreign Languages), where he passed his O-Level examination. In 1999 he attended Lumumba Secondary School for A-Level education, where he successfully graduated in 2001.

He began writing poetry while in his second year at secondary school. Later on, while in Pemba, he embarked on writing short stories and plays. Many of his short stories and poems were published in Tanzanian newspapers as well as broadcast in a local radio station, Sauti ya Tanzania, Zanzibar (Voice of Tanzania, Zanzibar). He has two yet to be published works, Dhambi ya Ubinafsi (a novel) and Saa ya Mabadiliko (poetry).

He works as a police officer in Zanzibar, and is married with three children.

2. Hussein Wamaywa (Tanzania), for Moyo Wangu Unaungua ($3,000)

Born in Ujiji, Tanzania, in 1980, after completing his secondary school education, in 2004 Hussein received a Certificate in Gender and Development, at Tanzania Gender Networking Programme. He acquired a Diploma in film production and directing at Dhahabu Film Art College in 2007. Hussein attended a short course in creative writing at the University of Dar es Salaam. He also has a Certificate in Journalism from the Royal College of Tanzania.

For the last ten years he has been working as a journalist for several publications. Currently he works for Sani and Raia Mtanzania newspapers. He is an advocate for human rights, gender equality and development, as well as a trainer for different local and external organizations in community issues, promoting sustainable development for poor and rural communities. He is the Programme Officer for a non-government organization, Mpakani Tunaweza Organization.


1. Ahmed Hussein Ahmed (Kenya), for Haile Ngoma ya Wana ($5,000)

Ahmed has a BA from Kenyatta University, Nairobi, and holds a Diploma in Arabic Language, as well as an MA, from the University of Sokoto, Nigeria. He is a Lecturer at Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenya.

In 2012 he won an award for best poet from Research Institute for Swahili Studies of East Africa (RISSEA), Mombasa.

In 2010 he published his first collection of poetry, Mashairi Bulbul (Oxford University Press, Nairobi). He co-authored and, in 2011 self-published, a collection of poetry, Sauti ya Shangwe. In 2012 he edited and self-published Ambari, a collection of poems by various poets.

His short stories, Kesho! Kesho! (2009), Mgeni Njoo! (2009) and Kifimbo Cheza (2003) have also been published by Oxford University Press, Nairobi.

He is currently a PhD student at University of Hamburg; and Doctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, Germany.

As previously announced, the other works shortlisted writers were:

  • Ally Hilal (Tanzania) for Mmeza Fupa (fiction)
  • Hussein Wamaywa (Tanzania) for Mkakati wa Kuelekea Ikulu (fiction)
  • Richard Atuti Nyabuya (Kenya) for Umalenga wa Nyanda za Juu (poetry)

Selected from 20 entries the manuscripts were read by 3 judges:

  • Prof. Rayya Timammy – Associate Professor – Kiswahili Department, Faculty of Arts, University of Nairobi, Kenya.
  • Shani Omari – Senior Lecturer – Department of Literature, Communication and Publishing at the Institute of Kiswahili Studies, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
  • Joshua S. Madumulla – Associate Professor of Literature – Tumaini University, Iringa, Tanzania.

The judges, in recognizing the long Kiswahili literary tradition said, that: “In the winning novel, women’s issues are discussed in great depth. The imagery of woman is depicted clearly in her various roles and capacities. Oppressive traditions and patriarchy are shown to be the greatest obstacles to her progress. She fights and emerges the winner in the end.”

“The winning poetry collection has used the Kimvita dialect, which is used in Mombasa. This dialect has been used by renowned poets of various periods in history like the great Muyaka wa Muhaji, Ahmed Nassir Juma Bhalo, Abdilatif Abdalla and now Ahmed Hussein. This is a dialect which has its own idiosyncrasies in terms of the pronunciation of some of its sounds and is rich in vocabulary.”

This year the Prize will be awarded in Tanzania at the Hyatt Regency Dar es Salaam, The Kilimanjaro, Kibo Ballroom, on 16th January 2017.

Notes to Editors

The annual 15,000 dollar Prize is awarded to the best unpublished manuscripts, or books published within two years of the award year across the categories of fiction, poetry, memoir, and graphic novels. The winning entries are published in Kiswahili by East African Educational Publishers (EAEP). And the best poetry book published in English translation by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.

The Prize is supported by Mabati Rolling Mills Limited of Kenya and ALAF Limited of Tanzania (subsidiaries of Safal Investments Mauritius Limited), in addition to The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University and the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University, USA.

Safal Investments Mauritius Limited. and its subsidiaries (which include Mabati Rolling Mills Limited of Kenya and ALAF Limited in Tanzania) are collectively known as The Safal Group. The Safal Group is the largest producer of Steel Roofing on the African continent with 36 operations in 12 countries.

  • Mabati Rolling Mills Limited (MRM) is the largest producer of steel roofing in Kenya. Established more than 50 years ago, the company is a leading innovator in its field. MRM led Africa in the manufacture of coated steel using the most advanced corrosion protection technology available worldwide, and its roofing brands are household names, which are known and trusted by millions of consumers.
  • The Safal MRM Foundation, based in Kenya, is a philanthropic enterprise of Mabati Rolling Mills and the Safal Group. It founded, and continues to fully manage, both the Mabati Technical Training Institute, and the Mabati Medical Centre, both in Mariakani, Kenya.
  • ALAF Limited (ALAF) is Tanzania’s leading steel roofing manufacturer. Established in 1960, ALAF has always, and continues to be, a key player in the development of the country’s construction sector. ALAF is a fully integrated operation, not only making steel roofing, but also producing the metal coated coils used by these roofing operations.  ALAF manufactures metal tubing and piping for various applications.

The Office of the Vice Provost for International Affairs at Cornell University provides leadership on and helps oversee internationalization efforts at Cornell. Its goal is to work with schools, colleges, and centers to develop, support and implement plans pertaining to the university’s international dimension. The Office will provide support for the new Internationalization Council, chaired by the Vice Provost.

The Africana Studies and Research Center enriches the academic, cultural, and social environments on the Cornell University Ithaca campus.

East African Educational Publishers is one of Africa’s leading publishers. EAEP strives to juggle the seemingly contradicting values of publishing works of enduring value cutting across the social, cultural, political and economic spectrum of society and at the same time excelling as a viable business that is ready to face the realities and vagaries of the technology age.

The Africa Poetry Fund promotes and advances the development and publication of the poetic arts through its book series, contests, workshops, and seminars and through its collaborations with publishers, festivals, booking agents, colleges, universities, conferences and all other entities that share an interest in the poetic arts of Africa.

Board of Trustees: Abdilatif Abdalla (Chair), Mukoma wa Ngugi, Lizzy Attree, Happiness Bulugu, Walter Bgoya, Henry Chakava, Chege Githiora, Carole Boyce Davies, Rajeev Shah, and Ngugi Wa Thiong’o.

The website is:
Twitter handle: @KiswahiliPrize
Facebook Page:

Contact information:
Prof. Mukoma Wa Ngugi, Cornell University,
Dr Lizzy Attree,