12. Afro JoSo /
In Senegal, a Chadian woman invented African-style solutions journalism with Congolese, Burkinabe, Togolese… And SoJo initiatives are seeing the light all over the continent.
In recent years, solutions journalism has spread to dozens of countries. The United States, France and Denmark, who are particularly at the forefront, have explored this new journalistic genre by disseminating it in media and journalism schools. Titles from all over the world have appropriated SoJo tools, from Mexico to Bangladesh.
Africa alone has long seemed to be lagging behind this global movement. For a long time, the continent has been summed up in the media as a glut of bad news: famine, war, disease, corruption and so on. And the good news that the African media knew how to produce was often confused with propaganda…
But, phew, from Cape Town to Tangier, things are changing. Solutions journalism is tentatively emerging all over the continent.
StopBlaBla, from words to deeds
The most recent, and probably the most ambitious initiative was launched in Senegal and was given a funny name: StopBlaBla. For its founder Aché Attimer Youm, Africa is not just a continental talking shop: “it’s time to go beyond the factual blabla, all those depressing or meaningless articles. And to bring balance to our media ecosystem by also highlighting actions and initiatives.”
StopBlaBla.com is at one and the same time: a media producing SoJo and curating all production on the continent; an NGO promoting solutions journalism throughout Francophone Africa; and a training organisation.
With “Tour d’Afrique des Solutions”, the platform offers African media the chance to share their reports on solutions tackling a common theme: the fight against floods, which opens the section, brings together, for example, reports from Burkina Faso, DRC and Chad.
The roots of Afro JoSo
For StopBlaBla, solutions journalism must adapt to African realities. STBB may want to apply the 4 SJN criteria and the 12 parameters defining useful information of collective interest developed by the Information Pour le Monde association (see episode 15), but the NGO media wants to set this practice in the African context. Drawing inspiration from solutions techniques that already exist on the continent, such as fun-poking that defuses tribal tensions in West Africa or the reconciliation techniques that still exist in Central Africa.
The advantages of Afro SoJo
In some parts of Africa, as in all countries where press freedom is not fully achieved, solutions journalism is a clever way to move issues forward. A technique at least as effective (and often less risky…) as accountability, advocacy or fact checking.
Aché Attimer Youm sums it up very well: “With SoJo, we have all the ingredients to challenge our decision-makers. By setting an example, by showing concretely how certain countries are doing and how to adapt it in our contexts. It is time to stop pointing out the flaws in the system and to contribute actively to its improvement”.
That’s why StopBlaBla is also working to set up a “proposers” movement: “not a government or an opposition movement, we are the proposers movement”. These proposers go into the field, identify problems, collect information on solutions, report them locally and propose them to decision-makers.
It is certainly no longer SoJo stricto sensu. But the approach is very complementary.
A continent of solutions
StopBlaBla is not the only initiative in Africa. We saw in episode 10, how Kandini’s Congolese experimented with SoJo on the radio by skilfully mixing fiction, reports, radio talk shows and listener interventions.
English-speaking Africa is not to be outdone. In the Great Lakes region, the Ugandan Media Challenge Initiative has created a training centre totally focused on solutions journalism with the credo: “We believe that good journalism can make the world a better place”.
Finally, the SJN (Solutions Journalism Network), already working with several English-speaking newspapers such as Nigeria Health Watch and Science Africa (in Kenya) is expanding to Africa in 2021 with a regional manager based in Nigeria and focusing on health topics.
The SJN also acts as an intermediary through another programme that will last until 2024: the LEDE Fellowship.
This scholarship supports, sponsors and finances (up to $3 500) entrepreneurs who engage in solutions journalism. The aim of this programme is to encourage networking between its members and the dissemination of “SoJo culture”. The LEDE Fellowship has supported various made in Africa projects during its first promo in 2019/2020. In addition to the Media challenge Initiative mentioned above, the SJN has also sponsored :
- An Egyptian journalist who launched egab.co, a platform to help young journalists from Africa and the Middle East to publish SoJo articles in regional and international media.
- A Ugandan journalist who set up Minority Africain Nigeria, a content solutions site on minorities almost invisible in mainstream media on the continent (LGBTQ+, albinos…).
To think about if you have the Afro SoJo spirit
- Do you want to develop a SoJo project? What’s holding you back from applying for the LEDE Fellowship…
- You are in a French-speaking newsroom and you want to introduce SoJo? What’s holding you back from contacting StopBlaBla…
- Would you like to submit an Arabic-language report? Submit it on egab.co soon
- Do you speak English and want to get involved in SoJo in Africa? Take a look at the Media Initiative Challenge!
A CFI project in partnership with France Médias Monde