Africa is a continent rich in culture, diversity, and language. As a whole, Africa has made tremendous contributions to literature, including children’s and young adult literature.
From the likes of Chinua Achebe to Ngugi wa Thiong’o, African writers have proven to the world that they are great storytellers.
Many writers of African descent make their mark in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and even years beyond. However, a few others begin so early that they accomplish so much in such a short amount of time.
Although there are many accomplished child writers in Africa, we took a look at three of the most prolific young female writers of African descent who made an impact in the literary world, not just as young writers, but also as writers of children’s and young adult books at a very young age.
- Adaeze Atuegwu – (born c.1977)
Adaeze Atuegwu started writing and sharing her stories and plays as a child. She eventually wrote and published 17 fiction books at 17 years old, all written within 8 months, in 1994-1995, making her Nigeria’s youngest and most prolific author.
Atuegwu’s books include the “Bina” series (5 books), the “Lizzy” series (6 books), “Fate”, “Tears”, “Chalet 9”, “My Husband’s Mistress”, “The Magic Leaf”, and “The Adventures of Nnanna”.
Atuegwu is one of the youngest Rotary International Club award recipients winning several awards at seventeen years old including an Award for Creativity (1994), an Award for Fostering Child Development (1995), and an Award for Excellence in Writing (1996).
Atuegwu is also a winner of a 1993 World Health Day essay contest at fifteen years old. Atuegwu received an Award for Creativity from Rotaract International in 1996.
Atuegwu’s collective books which were used as school reading material for decades have sold millions of copies, making her one of the best-selling African authors of all time. Her books are available in Braille and audio for the visually impaired.
- Helen Oyeyemi – (born c.1984)
Helen Oyeyemi finished her first novel, The Icarus Girl, at 18 years and it was published two years later, at 20. At age 22, her second novel, The Opposite House, was published by Bloomsbury.
Oyeyemi’s other notable books include “White is for Witching”, “Mr. Fox”, “Boy, Snow, Bird”, “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, “Gingerbread”, and “Peaces”
Apart from her novels, Oyeyemi has also written two plays that were performed at her school and later published.
Oyeyemi’s collection of short stories, “What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours” won the 2016 PEN Open Book Award for an exceptional book-length work of literature by an author of colour.
In 2013 Oyeyemi was included in the Granta Best of Young British Novelists.
- Michelle Nkamankeng (born c. 2008)
Michelle Nkamankeng was just about seven years old when she became the youngest South African and African author to be published. She is also top 10 of the world’s youngest authors.
Nkamankeng’s interest in writing started around the age of six and she went on to write a series of four books – the first two being “Waiting for the Waves” (published in 2016) and the second in the series, “The Girl Who Believes in Herself” (published in 2018).
Nkamankeng’s other titles include “The Little Mouse” and “The Golden Ring”.
Nkamankeng was appointed as one of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund youth advisory board members and her short stories have been featured in a collection celebrating the 70th year of UNICEF’s work with children.