Meron Hadero was announced the winner of the AKO Caine Prize for African Writing 2021 for her short story The Street Sweep, in a ceremony on Monday, July 26, 2021.
The AKO Caine Prize for African Writing is awarded annually for a short story by an African writer published in English. It is named after the late Sir Michael Caine, former Chairman of Booker plc and Chairman of the Booker Prize management committee for nearly 25 years. Previous winners have been Leila Aboulela (2000), Helon Habila (2001), Binyavanga Wainaina (2002), Yvonne Adhiamho Owuor (2003), Brian Chikwava (2004), Segun Afolabi (2005), Mary Watson (2006), Monica Arac de Nyeko (2007), Henrietta Rose-Innes (2008), EC Osondu (2009), Olufemi Terry (2010), NoViolet Bulawayo (2011), Rotimi Babatunde (2012), Tope Folarin (2013), Okwiri Oduor (2014), Namwali Serpell (2015), Lidudumalingani Mqobothi (2016), Bushra al-Fadil (2017), Makena Onjerika (2018), Lesley Nneka Arimah (2019), and Irenosen Okojie (2020).
The judging panel for 2021 was chaired by Goretti Kyomuhendo alongside Razia Iqbal, Victor Ehikhamenor, Georgina Godwin, and Nicholas Makoha. They announced the winner for 2021 as Ethiopian-American Meron Hadero for her short story The Street Sweep. The Street Sweep sets forth the story of Getu, an Ethiopian boy at a crossroad of his life as he negotiates the imported power dynamics of foreign aid in Addis Ababa. Set against the backdrop of personal trauma, threatening displacement and forced expropriation, the young narrator weighs his opportunities and soon understands the game of survival that leads the story to culminate in a hopeful twist. In this beautiful tale, the street sweep accounts for the young, ingenuous generation, determined to push open the doors previously closed on them.
Announcing the winner via a film curated for the award’s announcement Goretti Kyomuhendo said: “The genius of this story lies in Hadero’s ability to turn the lens on the clichéd, NGO story in Africa to ‘do good and do it well’. It takes us away from the external organisation coming to Ethiopia to help the poor, and focuses the narrative on Getu, an eighteen-year-old street sweeper, figuring out ways to navigate the nuances of the rich and poor. Utterly without self-pity, it is Getu’s naivety that endears us to him.”
Watch the announcement below;
Meron Hadero wins the prize money of £10,000 and the other shortlisted writers all receive £500. An anthology containing the five 2021 AKO Caine Prize shortlisted stories will be published along with two short stories from the Prize’s Online With Vimbai programme, respectively by Rafeeat Aliyu and TJ Benson.