She has published short fiction in several anthologies, journals and magazines, including Wasafiri (University of London), Moving Worlds (University of Leeds), Per Contra, Voices of the University of Wisconsin and Okike of the University of Nigeria.
She won the 2003 BBC Short Story Competition and a Commonwealth Short Story Competition award. In 2004, she was shortlisted for the Caine Prize for African Writing. In the same year, her short story made the top 10 of the Million Writers Award for best online fiction. In 2005, she won third prize in the Equiano Fiction Contest.
Her first novel, De Feniks, was published in Dutch in September 2005 and is the first book of fiction written by a Flemish author of African origin. Her second novel, Fata Morgana, was published in Dutch in 2008 and subsequently released in English. Entitled On Black Sisters' Street, Unigwe's novel is about African prostitutes living and working in Belgium, and was published to acclaim in London in 2009 by Jonathan Cape. On Black Sisters' Street won the 2012 Nigeria Prize for Literature; valued at $100,000 it is Africa's largest literary prize. Also in 2012, he was named by Zukiswa Wanner in The Guardian rated her as one of the "top five African writers".
Unigwe sits on the pan-African literary initiative, Writivism's Board of Trustees and set up the Awele Creative Trust in Nigeria to support young writers.
In autumn 2014 the University of Tübingen welcomed Chika Unigwe and her fellow authors Taiye Selasi, Priya Basil and Nii Ayikwei Parkes to the year's Writers' Lectureship, all of them authors representing what Selasi calls Afropolitan Literature.
In 2014, Unigwe published Black Messiah, a novel about Olaudah Equiano.
Unigwe lived in Turnhout, Belgium, with her husband and four children. She emigrated to the United States in 2013.
In 2016, Unigwe was appointed as the Bonderman Professor of Creative Writing at Brown University in Rhode Island