GIJN Africa: Funding and Grants

Investigative journalism has always been an expensive undertaking. With the industry under increasing economic pressure around the world, a significant number of commercial media entities no longer dedicate as much money to journalism investigations as they did in the past.

Several nonprofit organizations have stepped in to fill some of that gap. While a considerable number of them are local, others are global but with Africa-centric operations that are dedicated to offering grants in support of investigative journalism in the region.

African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME)

Located in Kampala, Uganda, ACME has programs dedicated to offering grants for investigative journalism, as well as training journalists on the continent to excel at the craft. ACME’s main goal is to make the media a more effective platform for the provision of information on public affairs, a tool for monitoring official power, and a forum for vibrant public debate. For its grant programs, ACME often partners with international nonprofits such as the Ford Foundation, Revenue Watch Institute, Population Reference Bureau and MacArthur Foundation.

African Media Initiative (AMI)

The African Media Initiative was launched in 2008 to strengthen the media across Africa to play a greater role in democratic governance and economic development. It does this through initiatives that promote independence, collaboration, pluralism, and financial sustainability. Its key activities include working with African media owners and managers to fortify their capacities to respond to journalism trends and challenges, provide training opportunities for journalists, offer reporting grants, advocate for changes to media policy, carry out media research, and undertake collaborative content development. AMI also organizes the African Media Leaders’ Forum, an annual gathering of media owners, journalists, and other stakeholders to discuss key concerns.

DW Akademie

DW Akademie is the international media development arm of Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster. In Africa, it supports traditional media, community radio stations, and bloggers in 18 countries. DW Akademie’s activities focus on strengthening high-quality, independent media and the sustainable development of training systems for media professionals. It provides grants to advance freedom of expression and access to information, especially for digital technologies. 

Fojo Media Institute

Fojo Media Institute is an independent institute based at Sweden’s Linnaeus University but with an international presence. It works with national and regional partners to strengthen free, independent, and professional journalism. Fojo supports news media houses and other media organizations, as well as individual journalists, to be financially and politically independent. It helps in developing sustainable business concepts and provides a host of other media support services. It currently works in five African countries — Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Zimbabwe — but has run and funded projects in several other countries.

Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is a large American nonprofit with regional offices in Nairobi, Lagos, and Johannesburg. It supports investigative journalism that holds leaders and institutions accountable, storytelling that seeks to give a voice to marginalized or silenced sections of society, and innovative projects aiming to connect and reach as many people as possible. Ford accepts unsolicited proposals, and their grant deadlines are rolling. Grant amounts range from between $50,000 to $1.25 million.

Hivos

A Dutch development organization with a global presence, Hivos provides grants to media organizations whose work aligns with its objectives and focus areas, including women’s rights and renewable energy. Hivos is particularly interested in innovative media organizations and journalism highlighting alternative solutions to persistent problems. It operates two regional hubs: in Kenya, for Eastern Africa, and in Zimbabwe, for Southern Africa. It also has national offices in South Africa, Zambia, Uganda, and Malawi.

International Women’s Media Foundation 

Based in Washington, DC in the United States, this nonprofit’s offerings are tailored to women journalists and photographers. They include safety training, byline opportunities, emergency support, fellowships, and funding. Among the IWMF’s funding initiatives are the Fund for Women Journalists and its Emergency Fund. The Fund for Women Journalists  supports educational opportunities, investigative reporting, and media development initiatives. The Emergency Fund provides assistance to women who are in danger as a result of their reporting. Both accept applications on a rolling basis. 

Irish Aid

The Government of Ireland’s official international development aid program runs development assistance projects in nine “key partner countries,” only one of which (Vietnam) is outside Africa. It provides funding to media NGOs as part of its efforts to promote better governance, human rights, and accountability. In Africa, its key partner countries are Ethiopia, Malawi, Kenya, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Tanzania, and Zambia. It also has a presence in Liberia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

Luminate

A spinoff from the Omidyar Network, the philanthropic firm Luminate was launched in 2018.  It offers nonprofit grants and for-profit investments to organizations and civic tech and digital services that enable people to participate in governance, receive the services they need, and hold the powerful to account. With regard to the media and journalism, it seeks to support nonprofit media organizations and collaborations between journalists, data scientists, and advocates; new membership models; innovative efforts to combat disinformation; and new ways to support press freedom. Headquartered in London, it has offices in Nairobi and currently focuses on organizations working in three sub-Saharan countries: Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. However, it is open to supporting compelling projects outside its priority countries. Funding amounts vary.

Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF)

MDIF is a not-for-profit investment fund for independent media in countries where access to free and independent media is under threat. The organization provides affordable debt and equity financing supported by technical assistance to media companies that provide the news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies. Their mission is to prop-up independent news companies financially so that they can invest in their future and develop competitive, resilient businesses.

Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) 

MFWA is a media development NGO operating in all 16 West African countries. It has a freedom of expression program, as well as a media and good governance initiative that offers regular training opportunities and supports investigative journalism through grants. In 2018, it launched the West Africa Network for Investigative Journalists, and it organizes the annual West Africa Media Excellence Conference and Awards.

Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)

Founded in 1992, the Media Institute of Southern Africa is an umbrella organization of 11 national chapters in the Southern African Development Community. It is based in Windhoek, Namibia. MISA’s activities are geared towards promoting free, independent, and pluralistic media in the region through advocacy, capacity building for media workers, media freedom monitoring, campaigning for freedom of expression and right to information, and offering legal support. Activities vary in each national chapter, with program implementation determined by the political climate and needs in each country. The umbrella organization’s website has a resource centre that aggregates analyses, legislation, and reports. MISA chapters in Botswana, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe also have national media awards to promote excellence on a range of thematic issues.

Money Trail Grants

The Money Trail grant opportunities offered by Journalismfund.eu and partners are meant for collaborative teams of African, Asian, and European journalists to investigate cross-border illicit financial flows, tax abuse, and corruption in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Journalismfund.eu also accepts regional cross-border collaborations in Africa and Asia for teams with journalists from at least two countries. There are three application rounds in 2020, with deadlines set for March 16, June 15 and September 14.

Open Society Foundations

The Open Society Foundations are one of the biggest private funders of media projects worldwide. Their Africa Office in London works closely with its four Africa regional operations and national offices. The regional operations fund media organizations, coalitions, movements, and journalists whose projects align with their priority areas. There is no centralized application process but the organization’s regional programs regularly publish calls for applications. They include the Open Society Initiative in East Africa, the Open Society Initiative in West Africa, the Open Society Initiative in Southern Africa, and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.

Pulitzer Center

The Pulitzer Center’s Persephone Miel fellowships are open to journalists outside the US who are seeking to report from their home countries for English media in the US. The fellowship funds journalism projects that “explore systemic issues in the applicant’s native country and that provide an overarching thesis, rather than individual spot-reports from the field.” In addition, its Rainforest Journalism Fund supports reporting on tropical rainforests in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In 2019, the fund started considering proposals from African journalists reporting for local and regional outlets. 

Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation

As a part of its development cooperation with the global South, Switzerland’s international development agency runs more than 800 projects and programs in the areas of health and training, job and income creation, rural development, state reform, and administrative reforms. It works to promote the rule of law, human rights, and justice, in support of sustainable poverty reduction and development. It runs a program in support of investigative journalism in Tanzania.

Taco Kuiper Grants

These grants are made to encourage investigative journalism in South Africa’s print media. They are administered by the journalism department at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a total of ZAR 350,000 (about $23,000) made available annually to investigative journalists in South Africa. The grant-makers will consider any amount that is justified in the proposal. However, they only accept extensive, in-depth reporting projects — including book projects — that explore contemporary issues that affect South Africa.

Wits Africa-China Reporting Project

The Africa-China Reporting Project is hosted by the journalism department of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. It aims to improve the quality of reporting on Africa-China issues by providing capacity building opportunities for journalists. The project offers reporting grants, and funds training workshops and other opportunities for African and Chinese journalists to investigate complex dynamics and uncover untold stories. The grants, which are offered throughout the year, range between $300 and $3,000.