About Africa39

The Africa39 anthology is available in bookshops now, or buy the book online

What is Africa39?

The selection and celebration – through a festival and an anthology of stories/extracts – of the most promising 39 authors under the age of 40 from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora.

The Project

The 39 Project consists of the selection of 39 writers under the age of 40 who have the potential and the talent to define the trends that will mark the future development of literature in a certain language or region. The 39 Project was realized for the first time in Bogotá (UNESCO World Book Capital 2007) and for the second time in Beirut (UNESCO World Book Capital 2010), resulting in both cases in a Literature Festival in each city with the 39 selected authors from each region (Latin America and the Arab World): four days of literature, debate and the love of books together, with an anthology published of stories/extracts of the authors.

The selection of the 39 writers is made using the following criteria:

  • • The writers are chosen by a panel of well-known judges
  • • The selected writers have to be under the age of 40 and to come from the region or diaspora
  • • The selected authors need to have at least one work of fiction published and potential for development
  • • Publishers, literary agents and critics from all over the world are consulted to create the longlist of authors

The judges selected from as many as 200 submissions researched by Binyavanga Wainaina, founder of the Nairobi-based literary magazine Kwani?, and the writer’s names were unveiled in Port Harcourt and at the London Book Fair in 2014.

Africa39 Events

April 2014: Launch of the Africa39 list at the London Book Fair and in Port Harcourt.

October 2014: The Port Harcourt Book Festival takes place in Nigeria, coinciding with the Rainbow Festival. Additional events in London and New York, in partnership with Arts Council of England, the British Council and Literature Across Frontiers, among others.


The Africa39 project was open to writers from the following countries: Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Côte d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Réunion, Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Saint Helena, São Tomé and Príncipe Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia and Zimbabwe.


The outcome of the project will be the publication of an anthology of short stories by the 39 writers in English, which will be promoted internationally to increase access to contemporary literature from the region. Hay Festival will encourage as many translations as possible of this anthology.

Africa39 Internationally

Hay Festival has been awarded an Arts Council Grant to take groups of the 39 writers all over the UK to promote the authors and the anthology, between October 2014 and October 2016.

Hay Festival Africa39