Ethiopian Meron Hadero sweeps the board at the Caine Prize

Thursday July 29 2021
Ethiopian-American writer Meron Hadero.

Ethiopian-American writer Meron Hadero won the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing. PHOTO | COURTESY | MERON HADERO via AKO CAINE PRIZE FOR AFRICAN WRITING


Meron Hadero, author of “The Street Sweep”, is the 2021 AKO Caine Prize for African Writing winner, Goretti Kyomuhendo, the Chair of the AKO Caine Prize Judging Panel announced on Monday.

During the virtual announcement, Kyomuhendo said, “The genius of this story lies in Hadero’s ability to turn the lens on the clichéd, the NGO story in Africa to ‘do good and do it well.’” She further added that “What stood out for the judges was the story’s subtle, but powerful ending, and how everything comes brilliantly together in a clever twist.”

Hadero, whose short story “The Street Sweep” was shortlisted among four others, becomes the first Ethiopian to win the highly coveted and equally competitive literary prize for African writers. However, this is not her first time to be on the competition, as her short story, “The Wall,” was shortlisted in 2019.

“The Street Sweep” features a young optimistic man, Getu, his mother and an American expatriate, Jeff Johnson. Getu is hopeful that Jeff Johnson will consider their friendship and change his ragged life into great fortunes. However, Getu’s mother is cynical and sceptical at the same time, as she looks at Jeff and the NGOs in their locality as nothing less of scams.

Hadero explores the interracial dynamics in a postcolonial nation-state of Ethiopia. She presents the non-existent relationship between the Ethiopians and the Euro-American workers in Ethiopia, offering us a peek into the classicism that is widespread in such a society.

Fearlessly, Hadero criticises the irony of the policy framework that exists to serve the capitalistic interests of the western countries while degrading the existence of her people. She also looks at the extent to which white saviourism has corrupted the hopes of Africans to regain their dignified position in their own countries. In a nutshell, Hadero’s story is one of every postcolonial African nation.


Other shortlisted writers were Uganda’s Doreen Baingana with the short story “Lucky,” Rwandan-born Namibian Remy Ngamije with the short story “The Giver of Nicknames,” Kenyan Troy Onyango with the short story “This Little Light of Mine,” and Ugandan-Canadian Iryn Tushabe with her short story “The Separation.”