Have your parents ever rewarded you with some toffees or money just because you did your homework well? How did you feel?

Let me guess! You were very happy and made up your mind to always do your homework well to get more toffees, weren’t you? And again, how motivated were you to do something knowing that you would be rewarded for it?

Indeed, the act of rewarding, as little as the reward may be, motivates one to do more.

In the same way, awarding language professionals, whose job consists of helping people from different parts of the world bridge language barriers and connect, will benefit the language industry.

Unlike industries such as football, music, and literature, which provide many awards for their heroes, the language industry provides few prizes, which are mainly for literary translations from and into various official languages.

What are the existing awards in the African language industry?  What are some awards that can be founded in Africa to promote the African language industry? Read to the end to find answers to these questions. 

3 existing awards in the language industry In Africa

  1. Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation

The Sol Plaatje Prize for Translation is a bi-annual prize first awarded in 2007 by The English Academy of South Africa with a cash prize value of R7 000 or $382 and an illuminated certificate.

The English Academy is a non-profit organisation with over three hundred members from within and outside South Africa. They organise this prize in honourof Sol Plaatje. He worked as a court interpreter during the Siege of Mafeking, and translated works of William Shakespeare into Tswana. The Award, which bears his name, rewards excellence in the translation of a literary text (poetry or prose) of at least 1 000 words in one of the otherSouth African official languages into English. The purpose of the prize is to encourage effective mutual understanding in that multilingual country. Since then, the awards ceremony has been held.

Previous Award winners

  • 2019 – Michiel Heyns for The Shallows (Vlakwater by Lettie Viljoen), from Afrikaans
  • 2018 – Leon de Kock and Karin Schimke for Vlam in die Sneeu, from Afrikaans
  • 2017 – Held over to 2018
  • 2015 – Not awarded
  • 2013 – Daniel Sekepi Matjila and Karen Haire for Lover of His People: A biography of Sol Plaatje, from Setswana (by Seetsele Modiri Molema)
  • 2011 – Daniel Kunene for My Child! My Child! by C. L. S. Nyembezi
  • 2009 – Award withdrawn (Jeff Opland for Abantu Besizwe: Historical And Biographical Writings (by S.E.K. Mqhayi))
  • 2007 – Michiel Heyns for Agaat (by Marlene van Niekerk)
  • Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature

The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature  was founded in 2014 by the son of the world acclaimed language activist Ngugi Wa Thiongo, namely Dr Mukoma Wa Ngugi (Cornell University) together with Dr Lizzy Mabati (Short Story Day Africa). This prize “has the express goal of recognizing writing in African languages and encouraging translation from, between and into African languages.”

The prize is named after its primary sponsors, Mabati Rolling Mills, a roofing company based in Kenya and Cornell University, an Ivy League university in Ithaca, New York.

The Mabati-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature will now be known as the Safal-Cornell Kiswahili Prize for African Literature. The name change reflects the new parent organisation of one of its sponsors.

Indeed, Mabati Rolling Mills of Kenya, a former major sponsor of the prize, is now a subsidiary of the East-Africa-based steel roofing conglomerate The Safal Group Limited. Despite the change in name, the objective of the prize remains the same.

The award is a cash prize worth $15,000, which is divided among four different winners. 1st fiction/non-fiction Prize winner and 1st poetry Prize winner will receive $5000, respectively. Two runners-up, in any genre, will receive $2,500 each. From 2022 forward, the prize will only consider previously unpublished works.

Previous Award winners

  • 2021
    • Halfani Sudy for “Kirusi Kipya”(“New Virus”) (fiction)
    • Lucas Lubago for “Bweni la Wasichana( The Girls’ Dormitory) (second-place winner, fiction)
    • Moh’d Omar Juma for “Chemichemi Jangwani” (“Water Spring in the Desert) (poetry)
  • 2020   Not awarded
  • 2019
    • Lello Mmassy, Mimi na Rais (The President and I) (fiction)
    • Moh’d Khamisi Songoro (poetry)
  • 2018
    • Zainab Alwi Baharoon , Mungu Hakopeshwi (fiction)
    • Jacob Ngumbau Julius (poetry), Moto wa Kifuu
  • 2017
    • Ali Hilal Ali (fiction)
    • Dotto Rangimoto (poetry)
  • 2016
    • Idrissa Haji Abdalla_Kilio cha Mwanamke (fiction)
    • Hussein Wamaywa_Moyo Wangu Unaungua (runners up)
    • Ahmed Hussein Ahmed -Haile Ngoma ya Wana.” (poetry)
  • 2015
    •  Anna Samwel – Penzi la Damu (fiction)
    •  Enock Maregesi Kolonia Santita (runners up fiction)
    • Mohamed K. Ghassani- N’na Kwetu (poetry)
    • Christopher Bundala Budebah -Kifaurongo (runners up poetry)
  • Marion Boers Prize for translation of work of fiction or non-fiction

This prize is in honour of Marion Boers who was the President of FIT (International Federation of Translators) for two consecutive mandates from 2008 to 2014. She was also the Executive Director of SATI (South African Translators’ Institute) for more than two decades.

This award is designed to promote the translation of works of fiction or non-fiction originally written in an African Language by a citizen of the 16 SADC (Southern African Development Community)countries. 

The prize may be awarded either for a single translation of outstanding quality or for the entire body of work of fiction or non-fiction involving at least one African language.

Possible awards in the language industry in Africa

Indeed, Kabod Group, the largest language service provider in Africa, together with partners will launch an Award Ceremony next year. The prizes are as follows:

1- Most innovative & successful African language project solutions Prize

This prize is awarded to a freelance translator, interpreter or language service provider that comes up with an outstanding solution for any African language issue, be it in the area of collecting data and documenting African languages.

2-  Best African languages software Prize

This annual prize is presented to an individual or a group of people whose software has increased access or use of any African language.

3- Best Literary translation product from (any African language) into English/French Prize

This African prize is awarded to any African translator or language service provider whose submitted translation product of any literary text, from any local language spoken in his country, either into English or French (depending on the official language spoken in the candidate’s country of origin), is selected as the most accurate among others, compared to the source text message.


The introduction of more awards in the African language industry is worth it as it will encourage language professionals to work harder. In attempting to get a chance to be nominated, language professionals and LSPs will be motivated to conduct more research and bring out greater solutions to African language issues. This will be beneficial to the African language industry as it allows creativity, innovation, and improvement. If everyone works harder, it means everyone will improve and Africa will keep on moving forward.

I call on the language unit of the African Union, ECOWAS and other interested parties, as well as Language service providers to come together to launch and sponsor more awards in the African language industry for the promotion of our local languages.

Are you an African language professional? Are you interested in participating in the upcoming competition and getting a chance to be nominated? If yes, then visit Kabod’s website frequently or follow it for updates and important dates related to this initiative.