Mapping A New Narrative For Africa’s Media In Zanzibar

A group photograph of participants at the ImpactAfrica #dStoryCamp in Zanzibar

My enthusiasm rose to a new high as I dragged my luggage through the tarmac of the Abeid Amani Karume International Airpor in Zanzibar city. The beautiful ambiance of room 35 in Serena Hotel compensated for the time it took to sort out the logistics at the hotel’s reception and the long hours of waiting to connect to flights. It was a beautiful sight to wake up every morning in a room overlooking the beach. The scenery even in the restaurant where we had breakfasts was most alluring. Nature is indeed generous to the island.

Being the first time I would be working on a data driven project, I had butterflies in my tummy. Also, presenting a power point presentation on my project in a gathering comprising other grantees and mentors came with anxiety. It was not long into the five minutes presentation that my slides got messed up and I was left to exclaimed, ‘what happened to my slides?’. I spent the rest of the time running through the ideas I had in my head. At the end of it all; though I won’t give myself a pass mark of having delivered a good presentation, I believe I succeeded in getting my message across, judging by the responses and questions which followed after talking about my reporting project.

Presenting my project titled ‘ Sketchy Sachet Water’.

I am among the 22 grantees of impactAFRICA, an initiative of Code for Africa — the continent’s largest data journalism and civic technology initiative. The initiative works with Africa’s largest media conglomerates to build new ways for Africans to interact with the digital world in collaboration with the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and other international development organizations.

The encounter with digital story tellers and global mentors who helped shaped our story ideas was one of the highlights of my interactions at the story camp. Meeting Jerri Eddings, a senior programme director with ICFJ and Nikki Kahn, a form staff photographer with the Washington Post was a delightful experience. Frank Folwell, a man with a kind demeanor was generous with photo. Jacopo Ottaviani, whom myself and other team Nigeria journalists tried to teach pidgin English is a humble and friendly fellow. One of the most enriching sessions for me knowledge-wise was that of Alice Wagstaffe, a multi-media producer at Channel4 news. She provided new insights on how to drive engagement on social media. At the time we began to move round for a one-on-one mentoring session, I benefited from the insights shared by the Tanzanian duo of Tulanana Bohela and Princely Glorious. Both are winners of the Innovate Africa grant and also run @OnaStories, a visual journalism hub.

On the Saturday we were set to depart, a walk through Stone Town, described as the ‘old town’ of Zanzibar City on the western side of the main island of Unguja in the Zanzibar Archipelago in the company of Kunle Falayi and Angela Robson provided an opportunity to shop for souvenirs.

I and other team Nigeria grantees wanted to take a bike round the town in the evening but the plan was aborted since we had limited time to catch our next flight to Dar es Salaam. We spent the limited time eating ice cream on the street of Stone Town and walking back to our hotel.

Kunle, Hannah, Oge and Kikiope, grantees of Impact Africa from Nigeria eating ice-cream on the street of Zanzibar.

My multimedia journalism project sponsored by Impact Africa is on the sketchy ‘story’ of Nigeria’s pure water factories. The story will investigate the hygiene status of the ‘pure’ water produced by local factories in Lagos and provide hard core evidence on how contaminated water fuels the prevalence of diseases.

Other Nigerian journalists who are also set to produce quality reporting that will reshape the media narrative in their newsroom include Kunle Faleyi of The Punch Newspaper, Misbahu Bashir, a senior journalist with Daily Trust, Kikiope Oluwarore and the CNN award winning duo of Ogechi Ekeanyanwu and Dr Yemisi Akinbobola. Their reports will cover wasted land issues, infertility in a Kaduna village, eating infected meat and the cost of mental health. There are many other out of the ordinary projects to be undertaken by journalists from African countries like South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana.

I have no doubt that by the time these projects are completed; the results will reshape the media landscape in Africa. How? These projects are not just focused on providing actionable information; they will also use cutting edge technology to deliver quality reportage that will match what obtains in famed international media outlets in terms of quality and visual appeal.

Sourvenirs shop in Zanzibar
An evening view of the beach in Zanzibar from my hotel room.

From my trip to Zanzibar, I also take away the fact that Africa needs to cherish the beauty of its lands and resources. To my Nigerian folks who like to travel to Europe and America for holidays, I advocate for a shift in direction. East Africa is a viable travel option; the influx of citizens of first and second world countries confirms this. Let’s patronize Africa to develop Africa. The hospitality industry in Nigeria should also learn that it does not need to be ostentatious to be grand. The hotels and tourist shops in Zanzibar took pride in their local designs and appearance. This gives an authentic appeal. A trip to Zanzibar is a voyage I will easily recommend to anyone seeking fun and adventure in a pure African fashion.

Hannah Ojo,

March 2017