Ellah Wakatama, the Zimbabwean publisher and founder of The Indigo Press, is the new Caine Prize chairperson. Wakatama, who served as the deputy editor of Granta magazine between 2009 and 2013, was also a senior editor at Jonathan Cape and Random House publishers, as well as the editor of Safe House, a book of creative non-fiction written by Africans inside and outside the continent.

Wakatama’s formidable knowledge of and experience in African literature will be a huge asset to the Caine Prize, where she initially served as a trustee. She takes over from Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley, chair of the Board of Trustees and of the Advisory Council of the Caine Prize.

According to the Caine Prize website, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, the president of the Caine Prize, said of Dr Jarrett-Macauley, “I particularly valued her chairmanship of the last prize dinner, where her exceptional knowledge of African literature was strongly displayed, as was her deep friendship with her fellow authors. I look forward to reading more of her work.” Of Wakatama accepting the new position, Nicholson said, “Ellah has accepted this position at this important time as we enter our 20th anniversary year.”

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Caine Prize
Arinze Ifekandu wrote his currently shortlisted story when he was 18 ears old. Currently 22, his inclusion in the shortlist has come with lots of hope for other young African writers on the continent. Photo: Facebook/ Arinze Ifekandu

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The Caine Prize for African Writing was instituted in 2000 with the aim of “bringing African literature to a wider audience”. The Caine Prize also seeks to connect readers with African writers through a series of public events, as well as helping emerging writers in Africa to enter the world of mainstream publishing through the annual Caine Prize writers’ workshop, which takes place in a different African country each year.

While the Caine Prize once faced criticism for the kind of story it celebrated, referred to by many as “African porn” or “poverty porn”, because the winning stories were mostly about poverty, it has also retained its position as one of the largest fiction prizes on the continent, with its £10 000 purse.