We took a deep dive into the Nobel Prize archive to see how Africa is represented. The list is overwhelmingly male.

15 October 2021,  Africa No Filter

The Nobel Prize has become the global standard for excellence in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature, and Peace. While the first Nobel was awarded in 1901, it wasn’t until 1951 that Africa joined the list.

South African Max Theiler was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for developing a vaccine for Yellow Fever. Tanzanian Abdulrazak Gurnah is the 29th African to join the list as the 2021 Literature laureate. He’s also his country’s only recipient. Nigeria, Mauritius, Madagascar, Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, and DRC also have one recipient each.

Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai was the first black woman to win a Nobel prize in 2004. South Africa has ten laureates, including four Peace laureates and two literature prize receipts. Liberia’s two prizes were won in 2011 by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the elected female head of state in Africa, and Leymah Gbowee, a peace activist whose peace movement helped end Liberia’s civil war.

South Africa has ten laureates, including four Peace prize recipients, two Literature recipients, and the only three African doctors awarded the Physiology or Medicine Prize.

After the Peace prize (14 Africans), Literature is the second-most represented category with seven recipients: Nigerian Wole Soyinka (1986), Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz (1988), South Africans Nadine Gordimer and JM Coetzee in 1991 and 2003.