By: Ndesanjo Macha
Africa: What’s Your Story? is the latest A24 Media project that seeks to highlight the common problems that the people of Africa share, and also promote transparency and accountability. Through an interactive online social forum, Africa: What’s Your Story? gives Africans the opportunity to unite in empathy for each other as they share ideas and solutions to their problems. In addition, the project gives Africans a platform to tell their stories to the rest of the world.
In this interview, Asif Sheikh, the CEO and co-Founder of A24 Media, talks to Global Voices Online about the project.
Asif Sheikh (AS): I am 5th generation Kenyan, but was away for 20 years. This is my first investment in media but I have a background in business for many years.
NM: What exactly is “Africa: What’s Your Story?”
AS: Africa: What’s Your Story? is a user-generated platform that seeks to promote transparency in Africa and hold individuals and organizations accountable for their actions.
NM: How did the idea come up?
AS: It started with the premise that Africa is growing both with people and countries. We now have 55 countries in Africa. We share a common name: AFRICANS. But the reality is that we have no clue about each other on many aspects from culture to food to politics etc. What we wanted to do is get Africans to start talking to each other and get a better understanding of one another. In order for us to do this we had to find a common thread, what links us as a continent and as a people. What we came up with is that we share the same PROBLEMS. We then had to categorize what those problems were based on what data was available. This how we came up with Africa: What’s Your Story?
So the idea is to highlight the problems we all share and to try and get Africans to understand more and to come and share and communicate their issues in their respective countries. In India, for example, it is one country and their are institutions where this information can go. As you know in Africa there is none and there is no place for someone to just share their story and get heard.
NM: So how exactly are you trying to get African voices and stories heard?
AS: Obviously we are using our own platform to showcase and if we can have a snowball effect it will have millions of Africans sharing and accessing each others’ information. Through this alone we hope we can achieve some form of problem solving. A Ghanaian can say I had this health issue and this is what helped me or what made it worse. A Kenyan can see this story and not go down the same route.
But as you know, our philosophy with our whole model is that Africa needs to stop taking handouts as AID in its conventional model does not work in Africa. Look at the famine going on right now. This is 25 years after famine in Ethiopia. So we want to take the content side of those citizens sending their stories and to try to use our media mighty which now has over 5000 broadcasters to showcase our issues and help citizens get some form of revenue. It is our version of citizen journalism.
NM: Do you have an example of how this model will work?
AS: Let me give you a live example. Just a few days ago we got a picture from Nigeria showing a policeman getting bribed. We are now using that picture and asking for others from other countries in Africa if they have a similar story. We then pick the best 5, use the resources we have as we are now producing our own shows with AFRICA JOURNAL for Reuters and glue together a 3-5 minute story on corruption on Africa’s police force. Nobody is doing Pan African stories this way. We believe this story will sell, and we will then give revenue to those 5 citizens.
Generally, all content that comes in is looked at by our editorial department, then content that is sellable is packaged and marketed to our vast database of media outlets. The citizen reporter will get revenue share on any that sales.
NM: I understand that one of the aims of your project is to get Africans to start talking to one another. There are 55 countries in Africa using different languages, how are you going to overcome linguistic barriers since your content is currently in English?
AS: We are starting with English and as the demand increases as is with our whole site and model we will slowly integrate other languages. We are looking at French, Swahili and Arabic.
Video below: Africa: Whats Your story ? ‘An African Voice Telling the African Story’
NM: Do you also intend to use the platform as a space for citizens to talk to their leaders and policy-makers? If yes, how would you do it?
AS: It is a space for ALL Africans to talk about what is important to them and with the hope that other Africans will then react and interact.
NM: Is there a common theme that will motivate Africans to talk to one another?
AS: Yes, there is and it is that we share the same problems.
NM: What type of content do you accept?
AS: We accept text, audio, videos and photos.
NM: Who are the people running the project at the moment?
AS: All is done by A24 media with partners supporting us with data.
NM: Apart from What’s Your Story website, what other social media tools do you use to push your content online?
NM: What are the main issues that you would like to see citizens talking about on “What’s Your Story?” website?
AS: Our problems: corruption, health, education and governance.
Video below: Farah Chaudhry, the head of marketing at A24 Media on the launch of Africa: What’s Your Story?:
NM: What has the project achieved so far?
AS: So far we have made progress in several aspects.
- African citizens stories are exposed to many of our portals and partners.
- Many other citizens learn, interact and some send their own stories.
- We use the media to highlight and get our stories told. We give Africans a platform to talk to one another
- We have other ideas like giving prizes, scholarships to our schools of journalism to innovative contributors.
We think we are onto something big. But with initiatives like this we need help. Thank you.