It has been more than a year since I received a phonecall from Maarten Koets, Deputy Director of World Press Photo, that revered institution in the global photojournalism scene. They run the world’s biggest annual photojournalist competition – the Oscars of photojournalism – and they run training programmes around the world. At Africa Media Online we were about to launch the African Photo Entrepreneur Programme (APEP) aimed at enpowering African photographers to compete on the global stage in telling Africa’s story. Maarten called because APEP was very much in line with a project that he had been dreaming up together with Aik Meeuse from another Dutch organiastion, FreeVoice, an organisation which nurtures capacity in broadcast journalism in Africa, Asia and South America. With the Fifa World Cup happening for the first time in Africa in 2010 they were playing with the idea of raising funds to train African journalists ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.
One thing led to another, not the least being the Dutch Postcode Lottery awarding the project Euro 2.2 million, without which there would be no project, and today I sit in Accra, Ghana with the 11 print journalists running a newsroom under the direction of veteran Reuters journalist and trainer, Brian Williams, and for Reuters Africa bureau chief, Nick Kotch. The 12 photojournalists are spread around the city pursuing a range of timeless stories relating to African football. They are directed by Pulitzer Prize winning South African photographer, Greg Marinovich and World Press Photo award winning Dutch photographer Chris de Bode.
This is the first of four workshops to be held this year in Ghana, Egypt, Nigeria and Sierra Leone working with 108 journalists from 34 countries in Africa – 36 photojournalists, 36 text journalists and 36 radio journalists who were selected from close to 500 professional journalists who started the application process in May. The journalists are being trained so that they become a significant force in telling the story of the first Fifa World Cup in Africa. This is very much in line with our mission of Africans telling Africa’s story.
It is just amazing to be here and see this vision come to life. All the project partners have been working flat out since March to make this happen. Africa Media Online’s primary role in the project is to make the distribution of content from the 108 journalists available to publications and broadcasters in Africa and around the world. The final elements of our MEMAT 3.0 online media management and sales system have been snapping into place as I write to you to enable the delivery of the first 23 productions from the project on Tuesday – 11 articles and 12 photo features.
We are not competing in the hard news space. These are more timeless, in-depth features that have universal appeal providing the context for soccer in Africa and its impact of African society. It is unique content that will bring a richness to any media reporting on the event. The fourth partner in the project, lokaalmondiaal, is here producing a documentary on the whole process, running a website on African football targeted at the Dutch public and gearing up with participants to produce a book with KIT Publishers in the Netherlands. They are real experts in African football. There will also be a major exhibition at the Tropen Museum in Amsterdam and a traveling exhibition in Africa.
Sunday is game day. Ghanaians are mad about football and this game is all important to them as it is to Sudan. Is is bound to be a riot of colour and our journalists have been following the Juju men who are supposed to give the soccer players magical power, getting in among the woman supporters Union, interacting with the families and neighbourhoods where key players come from and much, much more. Watch this space!