The CNN/Multichoice African Journalist Awards was established in August 1995 to encourage, promote and recognize excellence in African journalism and it has in the span of 20 years become the most respected journalism awards in the region. Every year, over 1,600 entries in 12 Categories are received from over 40 African Countries, including English, French & Portuguese-speaking countries and the Awards ceremony is broadcast across Africa via DSTV platforms, 66 terrestrial channels in 47 African countries .
As a mark of wide acceptance and spreading influence the awards have attracted sponsorship from global brands. Renowned technology and infrastructure leader General Electric (GE) is one of such brands. GE took a strategic decision to sponsor the Energy & Infrastructure Category of the CNN awards last year.
The choice of this category is not far-fetched. “As a leading Energy & Infrastructure Company in Africa, we recognise the huge impact energy and infrastructure can play in Africa’s development and will continue to support all efforts that bring the critical issues of Energy and infrastructure to the fore,” says Patricia Obozuwa – Director of Communications for GE Africa.
According to Obozuwa, “journalists play a vital role in setting the right policy agenda for respective governments all over the world by their journalistic work. We believe that by creating the category in partnership with CNN more journalists across the continent would be interested in writing developmental stories on Infrastructure and Energy in their societies. In doing so, they help highlight topical developmental issues that sometimes become a call-to-action for stakeholders and governments”.
In 2014 when the new category was introduced, there were entries from 38 countries around Africa. GE wants to see even more entries in the years to come because Energy and infrastructure remain at the core of Africa’s development. More than half of the population of sub Saharan Africa has no access to electricity. Millions of children have no electricity at school. The Energy deficit in Africa is huge. Governments also need to facilitate access to clean water, hospitals, clinics and move freight through an efficient rail system. “These are the dynamics that that will help build sustainable economies on the continent – and this is why GE is in Africa,” says Obozuwa.
In 2014 and Joy Summers and Susan Comrie of Carte Blanche received the award for their investigative piece, “Game of Geysers part 1 and 2”. The award was presented by Thomas Konditi, CEO of GE Transportation for GE Africa. This year GE is moving beyond just presenting awards to the winners of the Energy and Infrastructure category. In partnership with Nairobi based Africa Media Initiative (AMI) GE is facilitating a training programme for Energy and Infrastructure journalists for Eastern Africa. The training in Nairobi will explore the importance of covering the Energy sector, the weaknesses identified in coverage of infrastructure and energy-related issues, as well as the use of data and cutting edge technologies to craft and disseminate media messages for audiences across all platforms.
Some 20 journalists drawn from the East Africa region will undergo basic training on the Energy sector in Africa, and on using sector data to tell impactful stories that will enrich media content and better inform citizens. This workshop will be the first in a series of regional training events that GE will sponsor to create an Africa-wide network of journalists specializing in reporting on Energy and Infrastructure.
AMI’s partnership with General Electric will also provide the necessary expertise required in shaping media understanding of the Energy and Infrastructure sector. Journalists will be encouraged to publish and broadcast stories that drive the development agenda and clearly outline the critical role that energy and infrastructure play in the growth of national economies.
Clearly by this strategic engagement, GE is redefining the idea of corporate sponsorship not just for brand visibility but as an imperative for impacting positively on Society.