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African data journalism fund launches new contest for stories on water and sanitation issues

Journalists who report on water and sanitation issues in six African countries can win fully-funded study trips to major newsrooms in the United States as part of a new contest by impactAFRICA.

Access to safe water across Africa is a major public health issue that is often underreported by mainstream media across Africa, despite research by agencies such as the United Nations which estimates that 300 million of the continent’s 800 million citizens live in water-scarce environments with millions dying unnecessarily from water-borne diseases.

impactAFRICA will therefore sponsor three journalists to spend 10 days visiting and learning from some of the world’s top media outlets from three cities in the U.S.A. impactAFRICA is the continent’s largest fund for data-driven storytelling and is offering $500,000 in support through a series of contests this year to help boost digital journalism across the continent.

Any reportage on water or sanitation issues in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania or Zambia is eligible. Stories can be on any platform and in any format, as long as they are published or broadcast in the target countries during the period March 30 to June 30, 2016.

“Access to decent, safe water and sanitation remains a major challenge across Africa. Up to 80% of illness in developing countries are caused by poor water or sanitation. That is an astounding number, that very few people appreciate,” says Haji Mohamed Dawjee, programme manager for impactAFRICA.

Studies by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) suggest that 783 million people struggle to access clean and safe water globally. Of these, 37% live in Sub-Saharan Africa, with less than one in three people estimated to have access to a proper toilet.

“In Nigeria alone, over 130 million people don’t have safe sanitation, resulting in the deaths of over 25,000 children annually from easily preventable causes such as diarrhoea,” says Dawjee. 

“The media play a key role in helping citizens articulate the challenges they face and in holding service providers accountable. The media can also play an important role in showcasing possible solutions, and in keeping citizens informed about the often difficult deliberations about how to tackle these life and death challenges.”

impactAFRICA is therefore keen to showcase journalism that shines a light on the extent of water challenges, including under-reported or hidden water crises, as well as reportage on pragmatic solutions to the problems.

An independent international jury will select the best report in each of three categories as winners. The categories are: best community impact; best audience engagement; and best use of data.

“The winners will get to spend time with newsrooms who are helping reshape the way that media report on these kinds of complex issues in ways that empower ordinary people. But, we don’t just want better reportage. Winners will also learn new techniques for giving their audiences actionable information, and digital tools, so that they can do something with the knowledge they get from the media,” says Dawjee.

The water/sanitation contest is the second of four impactAFRICA competitions. The first contest, which closes on April 15 2016, focuses on in-depth investigative reportage into hidden or neglected health and development issues.

The partners

Code for Africa (CfAfrica) is the custodian of impactAFRICA and is the continent’s largest independent open data and civic technology initiative. It operates as a federation of autonomous country-based digital innovation organisations that support ‘citizen labs’ in five countries and major projects in a further 15 countries. CfAfrica runs Africa’s OpenGov Fellowships and also embeds innovation fellows into newsrooms and social justice organisations to help liberate data of public interest, or to build tools that help empower citizens. In addition to fellowships and CitizenLabs, CfAfrica runs the $1 million per year innovateAFRICA fund and the $500,000 per year impactAFRICA fund, which both award seed grants to civic pioneers for experiments with everything from camera drones and environmental sensors, to encryption for whistleblowers and data-driven semantic analysis tools for investigative watchdogs. CfAfrica also curates continental resources such as the africanSPENDING portal of budget transparency resources, the openAFRICA data portal, the sourceAFRICA document repository and the connectedAFRICA transparency toolkit for tracking the often hidden social networks and economic interests in politics. CfAfrica is an initiative of the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ).

International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) is at the forefront of the news revolution. Its programmes empower journalists and engage citizens with new technologies and best practices. ICFJ’s networks of reporters and media entrepreneurs are transforming the field. ICFJ believes that better journalism leads to better lives. Over the past 30 years, ICFJ has worked with more than 92,000 professional and citizen journalists and media managers from 180 countries. ICFJ work through strong local partners, such as Code for Africa, and a network of dedicated alumni. For more information, go to

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