Infographics, investigations and mixtapes

Despite overwhelming obstacles during the Covid-19 pandemic, independent media across Africa rose to the occasion and provided life saving information about health safety to their rapidly growing audiences. With support from IMS, local media managed to expand their coverage even further and reach marginalised groups through new, creative approaches

Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa, local journalists have worked overtime to counter harmful dis- and misinformation and hold powerholders to account. Simultaneously, many countries imposed new restrictive laws on press freedom, and struggling economies made income streams for media even more unstable. With a global health emergency, floods of false information and numerous new threats to journalists’ safety and livelihoods, many local media houses on the continent found themselves in need of a boost.

Coming together to support local media

Enter the Africa regional programme, aptly named “Covid-19 Response in Africa: together for reliable information”, which aimed to support local independent media in exceptionally trying times. The programme was initiated by an emergency consortium, a partnership between IMS, a handful of other international media development organisations and UNESCO.

Over 2020-2021, the consortium provided grants and emergency support to selected media partners in 17 countries across Africa. Some were long-term IMS partners while others were new. In parallel, IMS provided training in community engagement to encourage the development of new strategies to connect with even more and bigger audiences. The results of the programme are significant. More than 50 million people were reached by their content across Africa. Programme partners’ online traffic increased considerably, some by up to 80 percent.

Special efforts for the most vulnerable

Many in the audiences belong to marginalised groups, which was a special focus of the programme. For example, some partners interviewed and produced content specifically aimed at women, people working in mines and deaf people, others at sex workers, homeless and people living with HIV/AIDS. Similarly, a special focus on gender ensured support for women journalists and coverage of gendered challenges and dangers, like an increase in child pregnancies in Zimbabwe and the difficulties faced by women entrepreneurs in Tanzania.

The audience-focused approach resulted in a wider understanding of self and community protection. In Mozambique, an external evaluation estimated that 67 percent of listeners of the country’s community radio stations changed their behaviours due to the information they heard. In some districts, a direct correlation between the recommendations shared by programme partners and drops in Covid-19 infections was later documented and acknowledged by the Ministry of Health. A listener of the Furancungo community radio station in the country confirms: “I started educating my family first about prevention and then I talked to three family friends who didn’t wear masks and walked in a lot of markets where there are many people. Now these families have changed their behaviour.”

Ingenuity paved the way

The impressive reach was a result of not only good journalism, but also creative and strategic thinking. This materialised in a plethora of media products and communication formats: infographics, call-in radio sessions, explainer videos, social media campaigns and investigative journalism digging into, for example, the disbursement of funds to businesses by the Uganda Development Bank and the lack of testing facilities in Lichinga, Mozambique. During the programme, more than 1,000 radio programmes, 5,000 spots and jingles, 230 articles including instigative pieces, 60 videos and over 500 news updates and infographics were produced by the partners.

However, there were also numerous examples of partners’ employing untraditional methods to reach new audiences with important information about health and safety, vaccines and public decisions. Partners produced satirical skits, radio dramas, poems, quizzes and murals. Bustop TV, a partner in Zimbabwe, distributed 1,000 USB sticks with mixtapes of Covid-19 and vaccine information to be played on public transportation and at markets. Bustop TV also performed street plays from the back of a truck in remote, rural areas that were very popular among the local population, health experts and authorities. These plays and mixtapes reached more than 8 million people.


• In Mozambique, 6 million listeners were reached through 15 community radio stations, and in Somalia 6 million listened to shortwave broadcasts by Radio Ergo, a longtime IMS partner.

• In Zimbabwe, partner-produced programmes were played on the national radio station, reaching 90 percent of the country’s population.

• More than 10 million watched and heard material produced by partners on large radio and TV stations, for example, the 28 radio stations in Madagascar who broadcasted radio programmes by one partner, reaching up to 50 percent of the country’s population.

This article was published in IMS’ Annual Report 2021