Kinyanjui Kombani is the CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature 2018 winner for his work Finding Colombia. Kinyanjui received a cash prize of $10,000.00 Canadian Dollars at a ceremony at the Ghana International Book Fair in Accra, Ghana on August 31, 2018.
The CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature was established by CODE—a Canadian charitable organization that has been advancing literacy and learning for more than 59 years—in collaboration with the Literary Prizes Foundation. The CODE Burt Literary Award is a global readership initiative that includes programs in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, the Caribbean, and Canada.
In Kenya, the winners of the awards in previous years were Nicholas Kamau (2016), Chris Okemwa (2015), Elizabeth Kibui (2014), Argwings Otieno (2013) and Antony Mugo (2012). In 2017, the prize changed slightly with the “All Star format” being adopted. Here the major prize money would go to the winners from the eligible countries in an international competition. The first of the winners of the new format was Ethiopian Elshadai Tesfaye.
This year’s edition and the shortlist announced at the beginning of August comprised of five writers; Vera Akumiah, Kinyanjui Kombani, Ruby Yayra Goka, Elizabeth-Irene Baitie, and Hiwot Walelign. This shortlist was culled from the 17 titles from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania that had been submitted from the callout that had been made.
The winner selected was Kinyanjui Kombani who is known in Kenya as “the banker who writes” because not only is he an author of 13 published titles, but he is also a banker, a learning facilitator, award-winning entrepreneur and a business mentor. His newest novel for young adult readers was a finalist in the 2017 National Burt Award in Kenya and went on for consideration in the CODE Burt Award for Africa.
Finding Colombia is an action-packed adventure story involving the local Anti-Drug Agency (ADA), a covert operation involving a notorious and influential but elusive drug baron, and a young man who is determined to find a purpose in life as he deals with the reality of the drug culture.
Apart from the Canadian dollar 10,000 Kombani got, his publisher, Oxford University Press, East Africa Limited received a guaranteed purchase of 2,000 copies for distribution in Kenya, 2,000 copies for distribution in Tanzania and a $2,000 CDN grant to market the title across Africa. The writer celebrated on his Twitter stating, “GINIWASEKAO!!!”
I said GINIWASEKAO!!! pic.twitter.com/hpOFRF3YZb
— Kinyanjui Kombani (@KKombani) August 31, 2018
The 2018 CODE Burt Award for African Young Adult Literature Honour Book went to To Kiss a Girl by Ruby Yayra Goka (Ghana), published by Digibooks Ghana Ltd. Ruby received a cash prize of $2,000 CDN, and her publisher received a guaranteed purchase of 2,000 copies for distribution in Ghana and a grant of $2,000 CDN to promote the title throughout Africa. Ruby is no stranger to the CODE Burt Literary Awards, her young adult novels have won both the National CODE Burt Award in Ghana and the 2017 All-Star Honour Book. Ruby’s books are enthusiastically enjoyed by youth and her storytelling is exciting, well-crafted, and touches on themes that all young people can relate to.
To Kiss a Girl addresses the universal themes of relationships along with difficult by no less important themes of illness, pain and death. In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, Gyikua Ampofo loses faith in everything she ever believed in—God, a mother’s love, school and friends. But then she meets Chidi Anukwe and as their friendship grows, she learns to trust again.