Africa No Filter (ANF), the not-for-profit organisation focused on narrative change, has launched bird, Africa’s first digital, story agency designed to shift narratives about and within the continent.
Africa No Filter Executive Director, Moky Makura, said the story agency was set up to create compelling multimedia content for African media outlets that’s more reflective of a vibrant, energetic and highly creative continent.
“We identified a clear need for more human interest and feature style stories to counter the barrage of hard news – often negative – stories that are shaping how the world sees Africa and how Africa sees itself. bird’s mission is to create a home for these stories and make them accessible to media outlets. This way we have the potential to reach millions more with content that connects the continent and has the power to change perceptions. It’s an incredibly exciting initiative and a potential game changer for our mission,” said Makura.
bird’s operating model is similar to that of most global news agencies with the difference that it doesn’t charge its media clients for use of its stories. Africa No Filter funds the creation of the content through a network of contributors, which the team at bird edits and fact-checks, before delivering to its digital platform for its clients.
The launch of bird follows a ground-breaking report titled “How African Media Covers Africa” that found a third of all African stories in news outlets on the continent are sourced from foreign news services, many negative and conflict-filled.
During the period under review, AFP and BBC accounted for a quarter of all the stories about other African countries in monitored outlets. African news agencies contributed minimally, according to the report released in March 2021.
The bulk (81 percent) of the stories analyzed were classified as “hard news” e.g. conflicts and crises driven by events and were also largely political in nature, while 13 per cent of the news focused specifically on political violence, civil unrest, armed conflict.
The research surveyed 38 African editors and analysed content from 60 African news outlets in 15 countries between September and October 2020.
bird has begun on-boarding African content creators and journalists who will benefit from paid work and training opportunities.
“We’re looking to sign up more media partnerships and bring on more content creators and mobile journalists who are passionate about profiling ordinary people, places and topics that celebrate the continent. We prioritize stories that deliberately shift the prevailing stereotypical narrative about the continent away from poverty, disease, conflict, poor leadership and corruption,” said Tom Kirkwood, head of Nairobi-based Africa InSight Communications, tasked with building the bird systems and platform.
He added, “We are very much in start-up mode at bird, but it’s clear the demand for good and simple stories is there. There couldn’t be a better time – the world is ready for alternative, lighter, more uplifting stories that reflect this dynamic continent and that’s what bird is uniquely bringing to the market.”
Africa No Filter is a donor collaborative funded by the Ford Foundation, Bloomberg, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Luminate, Open Society Foundations, Comic Relief, the Conrad Hilton Foundation and the British Council.