The Africa Media Festival Happened

From the Curator’s Desk

Greetings friends:

Last April, my friend Sipho Kings and I were texting – he was in Perugia, Italy, for the International Journalism Festival (IJF), the annual media event that attracts hundreds of attendees every year from all around the world. Sipho is the editorial director of The Continent, my favourite pan-African weekly newspaper, distributed on WhatsApp and Signal which you must subscribe to if you haven’t already. 

Here’s our text exchange:

Sipho: Greetings. Good day. [Note: this is how Sipho really greets his friends] Let’s create an African journalism festival. Your lab could be a perfect host mechanism. If we can solve Nairobi’s traffic.

Me: Are you in Perugia 👀

Sipho: I am. It’s making me angry again at the whole system.

What he meant by “the system” can be unpacked extensively, but in summary, it’s the marginalisation of African voices and perspectives at an international journalism conference, and the inaccessibility of Italy- Europe for the many, many media professionals from countries where getting a Schengen visa would need jumping through multiple hoops. 

So, we thought, let’s do an African media festival, in Africa. I set up a four-way call between Sipho, myself, Maurice Otieno – Executive Director of Baraza Media Lab, and Simon Allison, editor-in-chief of The Continent. And that’s how planning for the Africa Media Festival began.

Ten months later, I’m yet to process the incredible energy, insightful conversations, dynamic co-creation sessions and general upbeat vibe that was in abundance at the just-concluded Africa Media Festival. We had about 500 attendees at the Radisson Blu in Upper Hill, Nairobi, nearly 70 speakers, and dozens of panels, workshops and sessions over the course of three days. We really did it!

We have a lot to learn and do better next time though – and there will be a next time! We’ll do more to make sure that Africa outside of Kenya, South Africa and Uganda is better represented. We’ll strive to provide more workshop sessions where media products and prototypes can actually be created on-site. And we’ll intentionally curate more sessions for multiple media tracks, including in a way that would bring unusual collaborations in the same room and spark organic connections.

I’m really proud of our team in bringing this idea to life. We have a lot to reflect on, but in the meantime, here’s:

  • What We’re Reading: The Israeli Hackers who Tried to Steal Kenya’s Election, published by Look, I’m still reading and re-reading this article and in real disbelief. What country is this we live in?!
  • What We’re Watching: Big Batches, on Insider Food, a spin-off of Business Insider on YouTube. You’ll be amazed at the scale of these kitchen operations – there’s one that feeds 100,000 people every day. Yes, for real.
  • What We’re Listening To: Kung Fu, by Okello Max ft. Bensoul and Bien. Okello Max is one of the most underrated Kenyan musicians, and something tells me he’s going to get his big break soon.

As always, 

Christine Mungai

Curator | Baraza Media Lab

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