According to New African Magazine published recently, at the dawn of this century, literature jurists in Europe and America committed what many in Africa considered an act of deliberate contempt. The magazine mentions that on the assessment of the "100" best or most influential books published in the previous century, not one was from Africa.
Looking at Chinua Achebe's 'Things Fall Apart' which according to the magazine, sold over 6 million copies and had been translated into major languages, did not make the list. The fury led Ali Mazrui an elder African political scientist to counsel or state that as long as the selection were made in Europe and America with their instinctive cannons, contempt would be Africa's fodder. He therefore suggested that Africa makes its own selection.
The continent's literacy connoisseurs obliged and in consequence the popularity of the selected 100 African books of the 20th century soared. Since then there has been an increased confidence in the institutions of literacy prizes by Africanist organisations in Europe and companies in Africa.
The Wole Soyinka prize for literature in Africa therefore comes with a medal and a $20,000 dollar reward and has become a symbol of knowledge creativity, courage and justice.
The fourth edition awarded in last year 2012 went to a South African journalist and writer SifisoMzobe. In addition to that there are some domestic and less endowed continental prizes. But far more prestigious is the Wole Soyinka prize for literature in Africa which comes with a medal and $20,000 dollars reward. Since 2006 the prize which administered by the Lumina Foundation based in Lagos Nigeria, has been awarded bi-annually in honour of the continent's first Nobel Literature Leaureate, Wole Soyinka whose sense of environmental preservation led to a major prediction in 1958 in the 'Swamp Dwellers', that the shell oil company's pursuit of oil and its effect would one day lead to an Ogoni crisis in the Niger Delta. Meanwhile, the Lumina Foundation, which gives the prize, continues to encourage reading in Nigeria primary and secondary schools through 63 Wole Soyinka reading clubs in the country, and working with 84 libraries.
The foundation was originally brought into being by Ogochukwu promise, who had to resign from a lucrative banking career to do so and gave out the first literature award on the 20th anniversary of Soyinka's Nobel prize given in 1986.
Ogochukwu said that she could not condone illiteracy or pretend it was not harming the people, she met and greeted or still meet and greet. Illiteracy she said, is the architect of poverty, including poverty of mind, which is the worst kind of real poverty.
The first winner of the Soyinka prize in 2006 had been one of the continent's foremost women writers, Sefi Atta with her novel entitled, "everything Good will come" it was followed in 2008 by another woman writer NnediOkorafor whose book was "Zabrab the Windseeker" and in 2020 yet another woman called KopanoMatlwa for her book "Coconut" who jointly shared the award prize with another wrtier, Mr. Wale Okediran, his book entitled" Tenants of the House".