Code for Africa launches impactAFRICA, a $500,000 fund for investigative & data journalism projects


Africa’s first data-driven investigative journalism initiative launches $500,000 in grants and technical support for reportage that changes lives.

The new impactAFRICA initiative will seek to support pioneering data journalism that tackles development issues, such as public healthcare, in six initial African countries Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

“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.”

The first of four impactAFRICA calls for applications opens today, January 18. The deadline for submissions is April 15.

In the first call, impactAFRICA will provide technical and material support to 10 projects shortlisted from the applications. 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.

Proposals 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.”

ImpactAFRICA will therefore facilitate 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.

CfAfrica technologists at labs in all six focus countries will help successful applicants build innovative story projects, using everything from data-driven mobile technologies, to data visualisation and interactive mapping. CfAfrica will also support grantees to maximise the reach of their projects, by helping to secure syndication into media across the world.

The initiative grows out of a partnership between CfAfrica and theInternational Center for Journalists (ICFJ). A consortium of donors led by theBill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and including the World Bank and CFI Media Cooperation, is funding impactAFRICA.

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

The impactAFRICA will also leverage its international partnerships, through ICFJ, to connect African innovators with their counterparts elsewhere in the Global South.In addition to the current investigative reporting contest, impactAFRICA will offer a second investigative contest in late 2016, and will also offer two other thematic competitions for beat reporters.