impactAFRICA: $500k African data journalism fund launches

Code for Africa on Monday announced the launch of impactAFRICA, a US$500 000 fund aimed at providing grants and technical support for impactful data journalism projects across the continent.

The initiative comes from a partnership between Code for Africa and the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) and is funded by a consortium of donors led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), and including the World Bank and CFI Media Cooperation (CFI).

The fund, which is already open for submissions, claims to be the first data-driven investigative journalism on the continent. According to a press release sent to Memeburn, the fund will support data journalism that tackles development issues, such as public healthcare, in six initial African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

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“We will help newsrooms use data and digital tools to produce the type of hard-hitting reportage and compelling storytelling that shapes public discourse and gets the attention of policymakers,” says impactAFRICA manager Haji Mohamed Dawjee. “This isn’t just journalism for the sake of journalism: we’re looking to change lives.”

Dawjee was director of social media accounts at Ogilvy Africa, before joining Code for Africa (CfAfrica) in December to run impactAFRICA. She also has previously served as deputy digital news editor at the Mail & Guardian in South Africa.

After this first application round closes, the impactAFRICA team will make its considerations and choose 10 projects to provide material and technical support for.

It will then award three additional cash prizes for the best of these projects: for the best investigative report; the best data-driven story; and the best service journalism project.

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Proposals, the fund says, should focus on in-depth reportage into hidden, neglected or under-reported health and development issues. The resulting projects should offer compelling storytelling, told in an original way that uses digital techniques for improved audience engagement, and that also uses data to personalise or localise stories for maximum impact.

“The digital revolution has changed what people expect from news. No-one wants to be force-fed news about ‘big issues’ anymore. The public is also tired of fearmongering. Instead, people want to be empowered by the news. They want to understand how news affects them personally, and they want to know how to use any insights they get from the news to do something tangible,” says CfAfrica founding director Justin Arenstein. “Technology enables us to help newsrooms meet these expectations.”

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In order to facilitate this, impactAFRICA says it will hold an intensive skills programme to help journalists prepare their applications. This includes a series of webinars, along with regular online StoryClinics where global experts and mentors will help applicants brainstorm solutions to technical challenges.

For its part, Code for Africa says it will help successful applicants build innovative story projects, using everything from data-driven mobile technologies, to data visualisation and interactive mapping. The organisation also says it’ll support grantees to maximise the reach of their projects by helping to secure syndication into media across the world.

“This initiative will help African journalists leapfrog many of the obstacles facing their newsrooms, by taking advantage of new technologies and by drawing on the continent’s best digital strategists,” says Mohamed Dawjee. “It will also help African journalists set new benchmarks for investigative reporting, strengthening scrutiny on issues that affect the health and wellbeing of African citizens.”

impactAFRICA will also leverage its international partnerships, through ICFJ, to connect African innovators with their counterparts elsewhere in the Global South.

“How can we use technology and data to enrich coverage of key development issues in Africa?” says ICFJ president Joyce Barnathan.“Just follow the winners of this contest—and you’ll see.”

Submissions for the fund close on 15 April, with full details available online.



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