Cape Town — The AllAfrica Foundation is launching an initiative to report Africa's efforts to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development. A $2.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enable AllAfrica to move from periodic to consistent coverage of development issues and to increase institutional capacity to support future projects.
The text, audio and video reports will be featured on allAfrica.com, the largest online, public distributor of African news and information. The website is maintained by the AllAfrica Foundation's sister organization, AllAfrica Global Media, which aggregates content from more than 130 African news organizations and hundreds of agencies and institutions and maintains a searchable archive approaching 2.5 million documents.
AllAfrica's reporting will be produced in English and French in collaboration with its African media partners, who will use the materials in their newspapers and on their websites. In addition, the reports will be included in AllAfrica's 24-hour News Wire for institutional, corporate, and financial clients through such services as Acquire Media, Bloomberg, Comtex News Network, Dow Jones/Factiva, L'Européenne de Données, Financial Times, LexisNexis and Thompson-Dialogue, which collectively reach tens of millions of end users worldwide.
The ongoing series will probe where and how development programs have produced progress, and examine the reasons and results when efforts have been unsuccessful. "These stories will reach policy makers, opinion leaders, NGOs and a wide public across Africa and around the world," said AllAfrica Global Media co-founder and chair, Amadou Mahtar Ba, who also heads the African Media Initiative. "Besides being a voice for Africa, the project will support our media partners by providing content, and by offering opportunities for journalists to expand their experiences and their capabilities."
Halfway through the Millennium Development decade – a United Nations campaign to substantially reduce extreme poverty, improve health and education, empower women and preserve the environment – Africa has lagged behind other regions. At the same time, many African communities and several countries have posted strong economic growth, achieved food security and reduced killer diseases such as malaria. AllAfrica's development reporting project will chronicle those problems and possibilities, through real-life stories of the families and communities that live them.
From AllAfrica's offices in South Africa, Senegal, Liberia and Kenya, reporters will roam the continent in search of mistakes to avoid and examples to emulate. "At a time when funds for international development must compete with other pressing priorities," said AllAfrica's head of operations and west Africa director Rougui Diaw, "it is vital to showcase the many successes, without ignoring continuing challenges."
In addition to producing the stories, AllAfrica will surround them with contextual, multimedia materials, including blogs, photo essays, research reports, interviews and panel discussions. Engaging AllAfrica's global audience in considering and discussing the issues is a core element of the project.
"It has always been challenging – and has become increasingly difficult everywhere in the world – to fund in-depth reporting about complex problems," said AllAfrica co-founder Tami Hultman. "We're interested in exploring and helping to explain big issues, we're grateful for the chance to do so, and we have abundant evidence that African events affect our common global future."
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation recognizes that media play important roles in informing and engaging the public – and shaping policy decisions that impact lives," said Chief Communications Officer Kate James. "We see this partnership as an opportunity to contribute African perspectives to critical regional and global dialogues on development issues."
The AllAfrica Foundation produces multimedia reporting from and about Africa, collaborates with African media to enhance reporters' skills and experience and operates a fellowship for African women journalists named for Charlayne Hunger-Gault, whose philosophy AllAfrica shares – articulated when she challenged a group of South African reporters to "be 'co-conspirators' in the one kind of advocacy a journalist is permitted to champion – the struggle for the dignity of every person on the planet."