Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi was born in Mengo, Uganda, in 1967. During the years of Idi Amin’s tyranny, her father, a banker, was imprisoned and brutalized. Makumbi grew up with her aunt, first in Nakasero, then in Kololo. She began writing plays for various competitions while still at school. After graduating from high school, she studied education at the Islamic University in Uganda, majoring in English language and literature. During her studies, she was the editor of the university magazine »The IUIU Mirror«.
In 1998, she began writing while teaching in Kampala. Her play »Sitaani Teyebase« won awards and toured Kampala. Makumbi began studying creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University in 2001 and completed her doctorate at Lancaster University. In her writing, Makumbi draws primarily on oral storytelling traditions and lore such as myths, legends and folktales rooted in East African Ganda culture: »I also noticed that using oral forms, which are normally perceived as trite and ‘tired’ brought, ironically, a certain depth to a piece that I could not explain.«
Her novel, »The Kintu Saga«, with which she earned her doctorate, won the »Kwani?« manuscript competition for unpublished fiction by African writers in Kenya, was published in 2014 under the title »Kintu«, and was nominated for the Etisalat Prize for Literature. The story begins in 1750 and tells of a family under the spell of a curse unleashed by their ancestor Kintu Kidda. Again, Makumbi brings together the oral storytelling tradition of Ganda to create a diverse interplay of unusual and powerfully crafted, vivid characters who populate this modern epic. Makumbi’s story collection »Manchester Happened«  was nominated for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize and won the Africa Regional Prize. Her coming-of-age novel »The First Woman« , which won the Jhalak Prize, is a feminist interpretation of Ugandan fairy tales and tells the story of a girl who grows up with her grandparents and, as a teenager, sorely misses the mother she never knew. The search for the mother is linked to the process of growing up and discovering one’s own femininity.
Makumbi teaches English and creative writing at various universities in the UK. In Manchester, she runs the African reading group ARG!. Among other awards, she received the 2018 Windham Campbell Prize in the fiction category. She was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Women of 2020 by »New African Magazine«. The author lives in Manchester and is a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program in 2022.