Abubakar Adam Ibrahim

Nigerian writer wins award for excellence in African storytelling

Nigerian journalist and novelist, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim, has emerged as winner of the 2018 Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling. Published in Granta Magazine in May 2017, his story, All That Was Familiar, was selected from 238 submissions put in for this prize.

Established in 2016 to the memory of Michael Elliott, a philanthropist and journalist who served in top editorial positions and worked in several capacities in global developments, the prize is awarded by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) in partnership with ONE and the Elliott family.

The prize aims to advance the work of an emerging journalist covering Africa who strives to strengthen people’s voices and improve their well-being.

Eligibility for the Michael Elliott Award includes:

  • “The contest is open to up-and-coming, English-speaking journalists working in Africa for print, broadcast and online news media.
  • Applicants must have no more than 10 years of journalism experience.
  • Applicants must submit one published story that reflects top-notch storytelling about important issues.
  • The submission can be a feature story; an in-depth, investigative or explanatory piece; or a multimedia report or documentary.
  • The published story or broadcast must be submitted in English. Works in other languages must include English translations.”

Abubakar and me.

The inaugural winner was Kenyan health reporter, Mercy Juma, whose story, Teen Mums of Kwale, “tells of primary school girls whose families make the controversial choice to let them use contraceptives even though the practice is taboo in the Muslim communities of Kwale County. The reason for going against tradition: Their unmarried girls need schooling, not more unwanted pregnancies, if they are ever to rise out of poverty.”

Currently an editor with Nigerian newspaper Daily Trust, Abubakar Adam Ibrahim is the author of the novel, Season of Crimson Blossoms (a story about an affair between a 55-year-old Muslim woman and a 25-year-old man in northern Nigeria), winner of the $100,000 Nigerian Prize for Literature. Abubakar is also winner of the 2016 Goethe-Institut & Sylt Foundation African Writer’s Residency Award, among several fellowships and honors.

His winning story “puts a human face on a story often expressed in numbers: More than 2 million people from northeastern Nigeria, northern Cameroon and southern Niger have been internally displaced since Boko Haram began its insurgency. Ibrahim tells about the struggle of two women, one from Cameroon and one from Nigeria, to find their loved ones and return home.”

Speaking about this year’s award, Elliott’s widow, Emma Oxford said that “Mike would be thrilled by the breadth and depth of talent displayed by the entrants for this year’s award”.  “The Elliott family, along with ONE, ICFJ and many generous supporters, is proud to help support the development of quality journalism in Africa. I am hugely grateful to the staff of ICFJ and my fellow judges for their thoughtful review of the broad range of entries.”


Two finalists of this year’s award are: 

A cash prize of $5,000, Abubakar will receive the award at a reception in New York on May 24. In addition to the award, he “will spend time in U.S. newsrooms to learn new skills and share knowledge in an intensive, customized program run by ICFJ. The goal is to help to deepen future reporting that engages and empowers Africans.”