As a response to the biting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, a writer and lecturer at the University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom, Dr Allwell Uwazuruike is on a mission outside the letters namely philanthropy. This author of human rights book in Africa is fast becoming a name within the Nigerian and African literary circles since he founded Afritondo, an online platform for African and black minority writers. The essayist who co-founded Afritondo with his brother, Confidence Uwazuruike in August 2019 was motivated into giving back to his community by the need to create a literary space for young and upcoming writers in Africa and the diaspora.
He has in a matter of months, grown Afritondo audience, which cuts across Africa, Europe, and America. The growth of the platform was further spurred by its launch, in October 2019, of a $1000 short story prize competition for the best short fiction by an African writer. “Over 400 writers from 19 countries entered the competition which was eventually won by a South African, Jarred Thompson,” he revealed.
In a recent virtual chat with international journalists, Allwell Uwazuruike revealed that Afritondo was awarding book contracts to young African writers to further promote and broaden the African literary landscape.
“The initiative is necessary in order to provide the necessary resources to young writers who may not have the same opportunities as their Western counterparts,” he said. “In May 2020, I commenced monthly cash disbursements to indigent Nigerians via my Instagram and Facebook pages. The disbursements, were to help relieve hardship amongst individuals and families most affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. With the initiative entering its third month in July, I can boldly say that it has directly impacted the lives of dozens of Nigerians,” he disclosed.
He was touched by some of the personal stories he heard of people who were hungry and starving as a direct consequence of the lockdown. “I was touched by their stories and decided to do something about it,” he hinted, adding that he plans an upcoming start-up initiative for entrepreneurs in the coming months.
In his view, there is an interlink between literature and philanthropy. “For me, the two are interlinked in that our sojourn into the literary world has an element of philanthropy around it. We want to give a voice to talents that would otherwise not have had that opportunity. We want them to win prizes and share their stories with the rest of the world. While, on the side of philanthropy, some people lack basic things like food, others, in the area of writing, lack opportunities or a platform from which to launch themselves. Both are interconnected,” he reiterated.
He said he was not recreating any character of a book in combining scholarship with humanitarianism but a desire to promote the welfare of others. “As a lecturer cum writer, I always ask myself what and how I can contribute to society especially to those that are most in need. I always ask whether I have done everything that I can and whether there is more to be done. In doing this, I do not necessarily seek to imitate anyone or recreate a character. I just act according to my conscience and principles. If everyone can join hands and help the people around them, then the world would be a much better place,’’ he added.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), more than 82 million Nigerians live on less than $1 a day. Many Nigerian artists are groaning from the effect of some of the quarantine measures without emergency funds from the government.
Narrating how UK government responded to its citizens during the COVID 19 lockdown, the author said, “The UK ensured that every worker received at least 80% of their salaries even though they were not going to work.
Small businesses affected by the lockdown also received government-backed loans of up to £50,000. Till today, furloughed workers are still getting paid. This way, many people do not feel the harsh impact of the lockdown. I think it was really inconsiderate of the Nigerian government to lock down businesses thereby depriving people of their means of livelihood without providing an alternative sources of funds for those affected persons,” he added. He however urged authors to keep writing.