Turbocharging Science Journalism in Africa

The Africa Science Desk, a partnership between the African Federation of Science Journalists (AFSJ), the South African Science Journalists Association (SASJ) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS), supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has just been launched.

Initially aimed at science journalists in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria and Senegal, the Africa Science Desk is intended to promote publication of stories around science, especially science that underpins development, while boosting science journalism capacity. The focus areas are health and well-being, climate change (and its relation to either health or food security), food security and nutritional well-being, water and sanitation, sustainable energy and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

The Desk will take pitches for stories from journalists in the four countries by the fifth of every month from September 2017 for 24 months; these pitches will then be assessed by senior science journalists and, if necessary, returned for suggested refinements.

If a pitch is accepted, the journalist will be given a generous grant to do the story, and will be assigned to one of a panel of mentors across the continent who will help the journalist to polish the story.

“The challenges and opportunities facing countries in the African continent, from climate change to energy to seed technology, are very much science-based, and yet there’s a dearth of science journalism capacity in our newsrooms and media houses,” says Mandi Smallhorne, who is president of both the AFSJ and SASJA. “The space and, critically, the funding for science journalism is shrinking.

It is our goal to provide both funding and capacity-boosting to journalists, especially those new to the field. The immediate future for all 54 African territories and states demands a generation of journalists who can understand and translate science into appealing and accessible language so that citizens can make informed political and practical decisions about the issues facing them. The Africa Science Desk is, we believe, a useful contribution to building this capacity.”

Find out more about how to pitch here


Article by Ms. Mandi Smallhorne / South Africa – September 2017
Freelance journalist and writer
President of the African Federation of Science Journalists and SA Science Journalists Association