Philipo Oyaro and Fatuma Salim Win the 2023 Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature

Philipo Oyaro and Fatuma Salim Win the 2023 Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature

the winners of the 2023 Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize have been unveiled. Philipo Oyaro and Fatuma Salim emerged victorious in the Fiction and Poetry categories, respectively, marking a historic win for Salim as the first woman to triumph in the poetry category. Hailing from Tanzania, both authors were awarded a prize of USD $5,000 each.

Founded in 2014 by Dr. Lizzy Attree and Dr. Mukoma Wa Ngugi, the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize aims to acknowledge and promote writing in African languages while encouraging translation efforts between these languages. Generously supported by Safal Group subsidiaries Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya and ALAF Tanzania, alongside the Africana Studies Center at Cornell University and the Ngugi wa Thiong’o Foundation, the prize has become a vital platform for literary recognition.

The award ceremony, held at the Movenpick Residences in Westlands, Nairobi, witnessed the winners being honored by Dr. Caroline Asiimwe, the Executive Secretary of the East African Kiswahili Commission (EAKC).

Philipo Oyaro clinched the Fiction category’s top spot with his novel “Dunia Duara” (The Earth is Round), a crime detective story intricately weaving technology into crime-solving. In the Poetry category, Fatuma Salim triumphed with her collection “Changa La Macho” (Sand in the Eyes), exploring the theme of building a new, just society through multiple poetic personas and vivid language.

The esteemed judging panel for 2023, chaired by Prof Kyallo W. Wamitila from the University of Nairobi, included Dr Zuhura Badru from the University of Dodoma and Mr Ali Mwalim Rashid from the State University of Zanzibar. Prof Wamitila praised the entrants for their exceptional writing quality, acknowledging the difficulty faced by the judges in selecting the winners from the impressive shortlist.

The prize money of USD 5,000 was awarded to each winner, with runners-up in both categories receiving USD 2,500 each. Furthermore, winning fiction entries stand a chance for publication by Mkuki na Nyota Publishers in Tanzania, while winning poetry will be translated into English and published by the Africa Poetry Book Fund.

The winners and runners-up in the Fiction and Poetry categories, along with outstanding short story collections, are as follows:


  • 1st Prize: Philipo Oyaro – “Dunia Duara” (Tanzania)
  • 2nd Prize: Ahmad Simba – “Safari Ya Maisha” (Tanzania)
  • Runner-Up: Nicholas Ogal – “Salome Anaishi” (Kenya)


  • 1st Prize: Fatuma Salim – “Changa La Macho” (Tanzania)
  • 2nd Prize: Lenard Mtesigwa – “Ndani Ya Subira Kichwangomba” (Tanzania)
  • Runner-Up: John Karithi – “Ushairi Wa Maisha Ya Kesho” (Kenya)

Short Story Collections

  • Edwin Omindo – “Mtoto Wa Mama Na Hadithi Nyingine” (Kenya)
  • Stallone Joyfully – “Koti La Karani Na Hadithi Nyingine” (Tanzania)

The Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize continues to be a beacon for recognizing and celebrating the richness of African literature, fostering a sense of pride and achievement in the literary community.

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