Africa's best contemporary writers

Best Contemporary African Writers You Must Know

Do you know the authors who time and their works have proven to make the list of best contemporary African writers? Read on to find out more about these notable people.

Author: Izuchukwu Ugwu            

Reviewer & Editor: Chinyere Nwosu 

Literature started from time immemorial and spread all over the world as a means of communication – oral and written. Africa was not left behind. Some of the best authors of Africa were a product of colonization – pre and post. The colonization experience gave the African writers the drive in their endeavour. The writers were forced to find their voices in pen and paper. The post-colonial African writers nailed the upsurge of corruption when the power came down to the hands of the natives by no means other than writing.

However, it is sad that the beauty of literature is going down the drain as many writers are losing the taste, vigour, and the supposed or acquired proclivity of creative writing. The contemporary writers had every skill needed, the presentation, and the cant they invented in their works, made their names go down into history; their works remain very outstanding.

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

Ngugi Wa Thiong’o

This prolific writer is one of the finest in Africa, whose works alongside others, shaped the writing techniques and style in Africa and the world at large. He was a post-colonial writer, who weaved words influenced by the lack of quality leadership in his nativity – Kenya. He changed narratives and the world’s view of African literature. Ngugi also was known for writing on toilet paper while in prison in Kenya. The novel he wrote on toilet paper – ‘Detained’, contains every detail of his arrest, nature, time in prison, and outcome. While working as a lecturer in Kenya, Ngugi was a powerful and revolutionary force. He caused by protests, the then English Department to metamorphose into Literature Department. His books include – Weep not, Child, A Grain of Wheat, The River Between, Devil on The Cross, Wizard of The Crow, Matigari, Dreams in a time of War, and In the house of the interpreter, etc. Ngugi writes with passion about the events that took place in his home country and the post-colonial era in Kenya.

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Chinua Achebe----

Chinua Achebe

This African giant rings a bell in the world of literature. He is one of the best writers in the world and the most widely read in Africa. He also is known as the father of African literature. He weaved words with transliteration and figurative expressions like a genius. He wrote like he owned the pen, and his works are

some of the many that shaped world literature and inspired many writers like Ngugi Wa Thiong and Flora Nwapa. 

Achebe was not just a novelist. He explored the paths of poetry, short stories (children’s books), and drama. His novel – Things Fall Apart in 1958 can be said to be his best-selling novel. The novel centered on the reactions of his locality – The Igbo tribe of Nigeria, towards the white missionaries. Achebe has many other books. These include: Arrow of God, No longer at ease, A man of the people, Anthill of the Savannah, There was a country, An image of Africa, etc. 

Another prolific writer, who was inspired by Achebe is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of Purple Hibiscus.

Chimamanda Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie is a post-colonial writer who invented her writing skills through her consistent learning and knowledge of the African writing style. Her books are (were) motivated by the wars of 1967-1970 in post-colonial Nigeria. She is of Igbo descent, the same as Achebe – this can be said to be one of the reasons her works reflect Achebe’s writing style and transliteration technique. Her book – Half of a Yellow Sun bared the Nigeria civil war with the world. In Purple Hibiscus, Adichie elaborated on the harshness of the Nigerian ruling class against the ruled. The character that embodied this in this novel is papa, who was poisoned by his wife eventually.

In Americanah, her third novel, she talks about race and the travails of a young woman – Ifemelu, and her love, Obinze. Chimamanda is known to be a feminist despite being married. She also happens to be an inspiration to the younger generation of writers. She uses the same devices as Achebe to design a perfect scenario, the most enabling environment, and conversation in her writing.

Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi Kwei Armah

Ayi is one of Ghana’s finest writers. He piloted Ghanaian literature and wheeled it to its recognizance. He also inspired a host of young writers. His best-known work is The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born. His other works include Two thousand seasons, Fragments, and The Healers. He is known to be an essayist too. 

There are a host of other renowned African writers that have carved out their names and inscribed them deep in

the history book. Minds like Mariama Ba, who bared her frustrations or views about the fate of African women in her notable work – Une Si Longue Lettre, translated as – So Long A Letter.


A lot of writers made Africa great in literature. I can only go on and on. The aforementioned writers of African origin and their time in the hands of colonial masters and colonial rule, were presented in their works of literature. They further reshaped the view of the outside world about Africa. A good example is captured in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, where he corrected Joseph Conrad’s impression about Africa and her people.

Literature in Africa has since gained momentum after these pacesetters took the wheel. The widespread literature in Africa, especially in Nigeria, came as soon as world war II was over. The search for independence also energized some notable writers like Christopher Okigbo, who fought for the restoration of Biafra, and secession from Nigeria. He died for this cause.


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