African Academy of Sciences has launched a project to provide funding for building the capacity of science journalists and improving the coverage of science on the continent over the next two years. The launch was at the Highway Africa conference, in Grahamstown, South Africa.

The Africa Science Desk, which is being launched in partnership with the African Federation of Science Journalists and the South African Science Journalists Association with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will fund journalists to research and publish stories in the six strategic focus areas of the AAS.

The focus areas include health and wellbeing, climate change, food security and nutritional wellbeing, water and sanitation, sustainable energy and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). It will also support data journalism and be implemented through the AAS and the NEPAD Agency’s Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), an agenda setting, funding and programme management platform.

The programme will initially focus on journalists in Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and South Africa, and will be extended to other countries after the first phase in 2018. Journalists will be invited to submit pitches, which will be considered on an ongoing basis for funding through mid-2019.

Early-career African journalists will be paired with senior science journalists internationally and continentally who will provide mentorship to contribute to the quality of science reporting in Africa.

“We recognise the important role that journalism plays in demonstrating impact and raising awareness of science in Africa. By providing this support, we hope journalists can play a stronger role in building the public discourse about how science contributes to the betterment of society,” said Prof Nelson Torto, AAS executive director.

“Credible and independent science journalism is essential to demonstrate impact and raise awareness among African governments and policy makers whose relative focus on funding priorities tends to correspond to media coverage,” said Deborah-Fay Ndlovu, the AAS communications manager.

Africa needs good science journalism to communicate the science-based challenges and opportunities facing the  continent and sustained attention and investment is essential to create a competent core of science journalists,” said Mandi Smallhorne, the President of AFSJ and SASJA.

“Building capacity in science journalism has the potential to impact on global health and development as it creates a space for media to ignite conversations about issues of importance to the continent and hopefully translate to the action required to address them,” said Moky Makura, deputy director communications for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Africa office. (Contact: d.ndlovu@aasciences.ac.ke