InnovateAfrica’s announcement of its winning entries for a share of $1 million in funding for developing advanced technologies and approaches in journalism includes a delightful surprise. Us.
If the three and a half years that we have been covering conflict and defence news has taught us anything, it’s that trying to get to the heart of what is happening in some of the continent’s most unstable regions is difficult. When a Kenyan Military Base is overrun in Somalia, journalists face a wall of denials and hyperbole. When communities in the Nuba Mountains are attacked in violation of ceasefire agreements, it’s a monumental task to uncover the details. Conflict, particularly in places the world considers geopolitically marginal, become hard to report and hard to hold people to account for as a result.
We’ve worked hard to push against the grain in a media environment that can often focus too much on shallow, dramatic accounts of conflicts. We think that detail is important, and we think that you should demand it. We were the first news organisation in the world to report the fine detail of how the M23 rebellion in the Democratic Republic of Congo was rolled back, and the first to interview MONUSCO’s new commander when he took office. But there have always been things we’ve wished we could do, that we just haven’t had the resources to. The use of detailed satellite imagery from otherwise-inaccessible conflict zones that has helped human rights and open source intelligence news for years has always remained prohibitively expensive, and there’s always a need to find new ways to reach the spaces where Africa’s wars are being fought.
The InnovateAfrica award will mean that many of these barriers to a more detailed understanding of how the continent’s wars are being fought have started looking a lot less like obstacles. We have a long list of very exciting things we’re planning to show you, and we can’t wait to start.