A budding new writer from the Democratic Republic of Congo has won the highly coveted Etisalat Prize for Literature for 2015. The evening ceremony was held in Lagos, Nigeria on Saturday 19th March 2016. Fiston Mwanza Mujila was announced winner for his debut novel Tram 83. The book was initially published in French by Éditions Métaili but was later translated in English by Jacaranda Books. Since its first publication, Tram 83 has won various awards including the PEN Translates Award 2015, French Voices Award 2014 and the Grand Prix SGDL du Premier Roman 2014. It is obvious that Mujila’s Tram 83 is a modern masterpiece worthy of its accolades. So what makes the Etisalat Prize for Literature any different from other awards?

 The Etisalat Prize for Literature is a pan-African prize that celebrates and supports new writers from the African continent. The prize serves to provide a necessary platform for nurturing talent and promoting the publishing industry in Africa. The prize is an initiative of Etisalat Nigeria and Etisalat Group, a telecommunications service in Nigeria with a mission of extending people’s ability to communicate through innovative technology.

The literature prize brings together high profile critics, writers and academics from across Africa and beyond to celebrate home grown talent. Fiston Mwanza Mujila will be joining an enviable group of previous winners. On the night he was announced winner, Mujila received £15,000, an engraved Montblanc Meisterstück, an Iphone 6S and a book tour taking his work to three different African countries.

The Etisalat Prize for Literature also supports sustainability, using the award and the success of the writer to help open up more opportunities. As prize winner, the writer will embark on the Etisalat Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, UK, worth £13,000. Mujila will be mentored by professor and author of The Last King of Scotland Giles Gorden where he will have the chance to meet publishers and work on his second novel. Etisalat have committed to buying 1000 copies of all shortlisted books to promote publishing in Africa. Mujila’s Tram 83 along with the other novels will be donated to schools, book clubs and libraries across Africa that will inspire the continent.

“In the beginning was the stone, and the stone prompted ownership, and ownership a rush, and the rush brought an influx of men of diverse appearance who built railroads through the rock, forged a life of palm wine, and devised a system, a mixture of mining and trading. Northern Station. Friday. Around seven or nine in the evening. “Patience, friend, you know full well our trains have lost all sense of time.” – An extract from Fiston Mwanza Mujila’s, Tram 83

By Kelechi Emmanuel Iwumene