Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On The Urgent Need For Telling More African Stories

by | Dec 14, 2023 | WH Promotion & Events

World-celebrated novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Narrative Landscape Press co-founders Dr Eghosa Imasuen and editor-publisher extraordinaire Anwuli Ojogwu, together with Creative African Nexus (CANEX) and the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) recently launched a publishing initiative that will allow more African authors an opportunity to publish stories that deserve to be told – with the hope of diversifying the number of voices within Africa’s publishing industry.

Coined the CANEX Book Factory, and attached to it the CANEX Prize for Publishing in Africa, the platform aims to promote a thriving literary culture on the African continent as well as encourage sustainable business practices within publishing. The programme will also offer an annual writing workshop plus a quarterly newsletter on African writing and publishing industry players. 

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A South African book festival once described Chimamanda as ‘the Beyoncè of the literary world’, perhaps an analogy that was meant to highlight the author’s ability to capture an audience’s attention with her often simple, but hard-hitting insights. Below are some quotes from Chimamanda’s speech, on the importance of telling more African stories, at CANEX 2023. 

The Hope Of African Stories

“I’ve always believed that there’s nothing more essential to the human spirit than hope. For me CANEX is about hope. The hope of many more African stories. We need more African stories. Stories matter. Stories are important. Stories can take away dignity and  stories can also restore dignity. Stories shape politics and perceptions.”


“If we Africans maintain our history through storytelling, it will give us the confidence that comes from knowing who we are. We need more stories so we can turn our [continent’s] myths into memory.” 

Managing Our Own Aspirations

“…Sometimes it feels to me that our aspirations as Africans are shaped by others. Stories can give us the confidence to own our own aspirations and to become more confident in our storytelling. I recently watched a Nigerian film in which one of the characters was shot and there were sirens wailing in the background from an ambulance that had been called to the scene. And I thought to myself: ‘Stop it, that doesn’t happen in Nigeria!’ But this sort of storytelling happens because our imaginations are shaped by the stories that we hear and see. I don’t meant that we should have a certain kind of defensiveness in how we tell our stories, but we should rather have a kind of proactiveness.”

The Psychology Of A Nation

“We need stories because stories are part of development and there’s a quiet psychological component to development. A nation without a strong psychological sense of itself cannot thrive. I’ve recently been reading some biographies of world leaders and was struck by the realisation that some of the world’s most significant leaders, such as Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, were readers. But most of all, we need more African stories because even the idea of a nation is about stories. A nation is not geography, a nation is psychology. A continent is psychology. We need stories in order to know ourselves.”   

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More About The CANEX Book Factory

From left: Tapade Ipadeola, Dr Eghosa Imasuen, Anwuli Ojogwu, Dr Benedict Oramah (Afreximbank President), Kanayo Awani (Afreximbank Vice President), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Chinelo Oramah and Stephen Tio Kauma

Dr Imasuen described the CANEX Book Factory initiative as a response to the challenge of poor publishing infrastructures on the African continent, a lack of resources, and the struggle authors often face to be heard in an already-crowded literary landscape.

“The CANEX Book Factory is an opportunity to breathe life into the dreams of countless authors who long to see their words in print. It’s a platform that encourages publishers to take a chance on African stories,” explained Dr Imasuen. On the CANEX Prize for Publishing in Africa, Dr Imasuen added, “This prize is testament to our belief in the transformative power of books. It’s a declaration that every African story matters and every writer’s voice deserves to be heard. Books in all African languages will be welcome and the books will judged according to their editorial foresight and quality.”

Some Background on CANEX

From November 9 to 15, 2023 some of the most brilliant global and African minds gathered in Cairo for the third instalment of CANEX, which formed part of the greater Intra-African Trade Forum (IATF). Under the theme ‘One People, United In Culture, Creating For The World’, CANEX 2023 sought to kick-start old and new dialogues that would encourage business opportunities, investments, partnerships and inspiration between the 54 African countries.

A brainchild of Afreximbank, whose headquarters are based in Cairo, CANEX is also aimed at offering tangible support to Africa’s rapidly growing creative economy – be it in the literature, music, culinary, film or art worlds. With CANEX encouraging growth and collaboration, all that’s left is for Africa’s creative ecosystem players to implement the insights shared so the continent can finally take its rightful place on the global stage – especially now, when the world is openly looking to Africa for inspiration. 

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“Transforming Africa for us is not only from an economic standpoint but a social emancipation stance as well. The empowerment of people of African descent tops of our agenda. We recognise that the cultural creative industry is a powerful vehicle for this transformation,” explained Stephen Tio Kauma, director and global head of Human Resources at Afreximbank. 

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