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What is PAWA





Several decades ago and well before the independence of African countries, writers and other intellectuals of our continent made several undertakings in vain to organise themselves into a Pan African Writers’ Union, ever since the first Conference of Black People’s Culture held in Paris in 1956.  Since then this subject has been raised  and deliberated on in different fora at various places such as Rome, Algiers, Dakar, Lagos, Luanda, Tashkent, Cologne, Alma Atta, Pyongyang and recently in Brazzervile (Congo).


In 1986, an Extraordinary Assembly of 61 African Writers representing 46 African Writers’ Unions and Associations met and decided that Africa needed a long-overdue Continental Literary Organisation and therefore set up an International Preparatory Committee (IPC) and mandated it with the dual mission of organising the symposium “International Literary Symposium Against Apartheid” in 1987 and to realise the old dream of the Writers’ Union as a dynamic association of Writers of Africa.


In working towards the formation of PAWA, the IPC sensitised African Writers’ Unions and Associations as well as African and non-African governments, called on the then Chairman of the OAU, the OAU Secretary-General and attended the Ougadougou Conference of African Ministers of Culture in April, 1988, at which the OAU pledged support for the creation of PAWA. Other African leaders included the Presidents of Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Sierra Leone and the Congo.  An IPC delegation met Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, then Egyptian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, while others went to Algeria, Libya, Ethiopia, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Tunisia.


With OAU and UNESCO’s support, the Constituent Congress of PAWA was held at the Kwame Nkrumah Conference Centre, Accra from 7th – 11th November, 1989 under the theme:  “African Unity; A Liberation of the Mind.” Representatives from over 36 countries formally signed the Declaration and Constitution that led to the establishment of PAWA.




“Convinced that literature is the testimony of the people’s creativity and that it has a determining influence on national conscience and development for the political and socio-economic liberation of the continent.

“Anxious to contribute to the revalorization of African cultural identity, and putting a spurt on Panafricanism and the struggle against all forms of racial discrimination.

“Conscious, thus, of the necessity for co-operation between African Writers and the world in order to break the language barriers and  to  promote the different cultures on the continent by developing them,

- Conscious of the necessary defence of the legitimate rights, especially, the right to freedom and promotion of writers by an independent and autonomous organisation, the melting pot of dialogues and cultures, and - committed to promote world peace through literature”.


The Conference of African Ministers of Education and Culture, meeting in Coutonou, Benin, in 1991, made a resolution to the effect that an International African Writers’ Day be celebrated in all African countries and in the International community each year, on 7th November, the birthday of PAWA.  This will afford the African people a moment of pause within which to reflect on the contribution of African Writers to the development of the continent.

The Pan African Writers Association (PAWA), a leading Pan African Cultural Institution accorded, full Diplomatic Status by the Government of Ghana in 1992, is made up of the 52 National Writers Associations on the continent, and seeks to contribute its quota to moral, cultural and intellectual renaissance in Africa. Indeed, it is to play the role of being an important voice of the African, while seeking to restore to our people, confidence in themselves as African and reinforcing the vision for a Common African Home.


The aims and objectives of the Association shall be as follows:

  1. To provide a forum for all writers of Africa and those of African origin:   
  2. To seek and vigorously defend freedom of expression for all Africans and the material and spiritual interests of African writers and their Association;
  3. To promote literacy and to eradicate illiteracy in Africa:
  4. To encourage the inclusion of African literary works in the curriculum of educational institutions:
  5. To promote African languages and the translation of African literature into African languages:  
  6. To promote research into recording and retrieving lost or undiscovered African heritage whether on the Continent, in the disaspora or in museums and libraries of the world:
  7. To stimulate co-operation between PAWA and Writers’ organizations of the world:
  8. To promote peace and understanding in Africa and the world through literature:
  9. To establish a continental African Publishing House
  10. To provide wider avenues for the publishing of African Literature      
  11. To establish an effective distribution network:
  12. To establish Pan African Journal:
  13. To ensure the protection of the works of African writers through the appropriate copyright laws and agencies:
  14. To institute continental literary awards:
  15. To organise programmes to promote Pan African literary excellence.



The mission of PAWA that was unanimously accepted by African writers at its inaugural congress in November, 1989, in Accra, is that the Pan African Writer’s Association (PAWA) exists:

“to strengthen the cultural and economic bonds between the people on the African continent against the background of the continent’s acknowledged diverse but rich cultural, political and economic heritage.”

At the PAWA forum on 3rd September, 1991, Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim OAU Secretary General elaborated this mission further when he declared:  “… Africa writers can use their pens, skills and gifts to sensitize the ordinary African people to the basic truism that, sharing as they all do, a common destiny, they owe it themselves to ensure that the economic integration of the continent, the only road, is embarked upon …”

Against the background of the enormous political and economic shifts going on in today’s world, the mission of PAWA is not simply important. It is a clarion call to PAWA and African writers on what is imperative and crucial as they explore the human condition, the African human condition. For this reason, PAWA also seeks, in the new conditions on the continent of Africa, to advance and enhance the economic, social and political well being of Africans through literature and advocacy.




As can be seen from the Constitution of PAWA, the heart of the activities of PAWA is located in its Secretariat which is headed by the Secretary- General of PAWA. This Secretariat is located in Accra, Ghana. In 1991, the Government of Ghana granted full Diplomatic Status to the Secretariat of PAWA thus enabling it to relate with African governments, the AU and various institutions across the world in ways that would facilitate the ideas in its founding declaration and vision.



From its founding in November 1989, PAWA has engaged in a variety of activities within and outside Africa. These activities have included conferences, readings, lectures, performances and visits. PAWA has also organised specific programmes that target issues of major concern to Africa and humanity as a whole. Thus PAWA has organised writing competitions on HIV/AIDS and also encouraged writers to explore the themes of war and peace, discrimination, gender and development.


PAWA has been especially active in honouring African writers and encouraging/providing training to younger generations of writers to build upon and extend the best literary achievements of African and other writers in the world. In these and other activities, PAWA has collaborated with and received the support major institutions and individuals across the world. Thus the African Union and various African governments - those of Ghana, Libya, have provided tremendous support for the work of PAWA. Africa’s most prominent thinkers and writers including her Nobel Laureates - Wole Soyinka and Nadine Gordimer, - have played prominent roles in the activities of PAWA.         

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Endowment of Prizes for African Literature

Since its founding in 1989, PAWA has struggled with the challenge of obtaining endowments for Prizes to honour African writers who have produced outstanding work and who have therefore contributed to the enrichment of not just African culture but world culture. It remains a major concern to PAWA that recognition of the fact that Africans have contributed to the development of world culture through literature has come about as a result of honours bestowed on African writers by literary bodies, agencies and organizations outside African continent. Thus today all the major prizes for African literature are organized by bodies outside Africa. Thus the Noma Award for publishing in Africa is administered in Japan. Bodies outside the African continent administer the Commonwealth Prize, the Booker Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature.


Africa itself has no single recognized effort for recognizing, rewarding and encouraging literary excellence by African writers of African descent anywhere in the world.  This is an unsettling paradox that PAWA has been seeking to correct since its founding in 1989. This remains a major challenge for PAWA. PAWA invites individuals, organisations and governments in Africa or with cultural connections to Africa and Africans to help meet this challenge.