Wednesday, April 20, 2016

2nd ZIMEO Media Excellence Awards contest Launched

The African Media Initiative has announce the launch of its pan-African journalism contest. Called the 2nd Zimeo Awards for Excellence in Media, the contest is open to professional journalists in Africa reporting or writing for print, radio, TV and digital. 

The announcement calls on all interested journalists to reflect on their prospective entries and await details of submission dates and procedures. 

The competition will recognize journalism excellence in the following categories:

      1. Gender/Women's rights
2. The youth agenda
3. Maritime economy
4. Business and finance
5. Technology and digital journalism
6. Agriculture and food security
7. Health
8. Education
9. Peace and security
10. Energy & infrastructure
11. Extractive industries
12. African Union Agenda 2063
13. Conservation and climate change
14. Sustainable Development Goals Reporting
15. Sport/ economics, culture/sports management

The call for entries will be issued in June 2016 and journalists are encouraged to present either single stories/articles or thematic packages in the following languages, English, French, Portuguese, Arabic and Kiswahili.

A panel of independent judges will be looking for entries which:

• Demonstrate a high quality of reporting/writing in terms of originality, depth, rigour, research, investigative enterprise, innovativeness, clarity, proper sourcing, fairness, accuracy, exhaustive analysis of the context and background and an above average understanding of the subject matter.
• Are data-driven and use creative digital tools like mapping, crowdsourcing and visualization to help tell the story.
• Communicate the topic in a way that makes the story relevant and engaging to audiences and that contains evidence of its likely social impact or benefit to society.
• Provide, where possible, a pan-African perspective.
• Are multi-sourced.

Launching the contest, AMI CEO Eric Chinje said: “When we launched this contest last year, we were pleasantly surprised by the huge volume of entries and we’re hoping this year won’t be any different. The contest is taking a slightly different characteristic as it is now inviting Kiswahili entries, following strong recommendations by journalists for its inclusion.”

The contest’s judging coordinator, Wangethi Mwangi, said: “As with last year’s, we’ll constitute judging panels to address the different regional and language groups and plan to maintain the highest standards of fairness in the judging process.

Further enquiries should be directed at Justus Machio, Communications and Outreach Assistant at the African Media Initiative via email:

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Three-quarters of global aid fails to meet transparency standards, limiting aid's impact, a new analysis shows.

London - New analysis from Publish What You Fund indicates that 25% of global aid now meets transparency standards.

Donors promised in 2011 to open up their books, publishing details of their development projects to a common open standard, the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI).
Despite progress over the last five years, analysis of 46 aid donors found that most have failed to uphold this commitment. The report’s authors argue that this will as information is critical to effective policy.

Rupert Simons, the CEO of Publish What You Fund, said:

“The ‘data revolution’ isn’t reaching the world’s poorest countries. The 2016 Aid Transparency Index shows that only 10 out of 46 of the world’s largest and most influential donors provided enough information to enable recipient governments to plan, or for citizens to hold their governments to account.

Aid transparency is critical to helping countries meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs), agreed in September 2015. Many countries need aid to help them meet the goals, so their citizens and governments need access to information on development finance and projects.

Jeremiah Sam, Project Coordinator at Penplusbytes, Ghana - the leading institution promoting effective governance through technology in Africa, said:

“Information on what aid my country has received is essential to be able to hold the government to account. Now more than ever, more donors need to step up to the challenge. There is a demand from civil society.

For example, having access to data enabled us to better inform citizens about how much government received from donors. This empowered citizens to demand transparency and accountability in government expenditure and decision making processes. Access to more information will pave the way for similar successes.

Citizens need to be armed with such knowledge to make informed choices especially at the polls and demand good governance, which will contribute to citizen’s ability to advocate for policies that will improve their living standards and well-being.”

Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which topped the list for transparency in the 2016 Aid Transparency Index, said:

“Transparency is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and development in general.  It is encouraging that there has been a marked improvement in aid transparency – but more needs to be done in order to ensure that development is as effective as possible.”

Publish What You Fund’s analysis classed twelve organisations as performing poorly. Of these, eight do not make information on their aid contributions publicly accessible to IATI. A further sixteen are not yet publishing good enough data to meet their transparency commitment, agreed in 2011 to make development more effective.

The list includes some of the world’s largest aid donors, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The report’s authors argue that more and better data from these organizations would help them and their partners get more out of each dollar spent.

The Foreign Ministries of Italy, France and Japan are of particular concern. All have failed to meet their commitments as members of the G7 to provide open, timely and transparent data on development assistance – indicating a lack of regard for transparency or respect for their partners.

Rupert Simons said:

“Major donors lagging behind have no excuses: we know it can be done. There are now almost 400 publishers of all shapes and sizes to the IATI registry – five years ago there was one.”


Monday, April 18, 2016


There is a strong link between the quality of democracy and information. The quality of the democratic process in a country is determined by the information infrastructure in place.  The successful functioning  of  any  democratic  government  is  dependent  upon  efficient,  multi -directional  flows  of  information.  

Both citizens and governments need information for many reasons. Elected representatives in parliaments and the local assemblies need  information  about  the  executives’  policies  so  that  they can  pass  effective  legislation,  scrutinize  executive  functions and hold governments to account if necessary. They also need information from individual citizens and civil society about those issues of local or national importance that they are expected to follow up on. 

The Committee on Government Assurance of the parliament of Ghana is tasked to exercise an oversight responsibility over the executive arm of government. The Committee in its bid to enhance citizen participation and engagement has been trying to bridge the gap between Parliament and the citizenry using ICT tools.

The Committee partnered Penplusbytes over the last couple of years to implement the “Connecting citizens to Parliament” project with technical support from Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), to address the limited structured citizen engagement with Parliamentarians on issues that affect their lives and government assurances.

The main tools used by the “Connecting Citizens to Parliament” project is easily accessible platforms such as an online portal, mashed-up with social media, SMS, WhatsApp and mobile apps as well as face-to-face engagement aimed at roping in “democratic outsiders”. The project particularly focused on getting the Committee on Government Assurances of parliament, civil society organisations and citizens to be supportive of the different technology platforms and committed to using these tools to enhance interaction between parliament and citizens and also increase citizens’ engagement with parliament on assurances.

Kwami Ahiabenu, II, Executive Director of Penplusbytes, said the project took a phased approach focusing firstly on five communities; Ho in the Volta Region, Tamale Central in the Northern Region, Twifo Heman Lower Denkyira in the Central Region, Trobu-Amasaman in the Greater Accra Region and University of Cape Coast in the Central region. “We pursued activities within these communities which included public hearings, online platform operations (web, social media and SMS), citizens’ forums, knowledge management, media outreach, and validation visits to see the progress or status of ongoing projects,” He added.

According to the Chairman of the committee, and Member of Parliament for Ho West constituency, Hon. Emmanuel Kwasi Bedzrah, the technology platforms enhanced their work and made lighter the cost and burden of citizen engagement and participation in governance.

He said, “Our work was more efficient as, for the first time ever, we had a dedicated website on which citizens could report on projects within their communities and reach out to us via an integrated media system about other governance issues that they had concerns with. The project also equipped our committee members with technology, information and knowledge management skills. We call on all stakeholders to support us, sustain the success chalked by “Connecting Citizens to Parliament” project to ensure that the Parliament of Ghana can continue to interact with even more of our citizens."

Assessing the project’s impact thus far, Hon. Foster Joseph Andoh, MP for Twima Lower Denkyira constituency stated that: “It has removed the challenges of physical distance and logistical barriers to engaging citizens especially the young people.” 

“The project has solved problems related to tracking and monitoring assurances that the executive gives to citizens. The next stage, however, is to look at widening the cover and depth of engagements and ensuring that citizens can really get to talk to Parliament,” said Jerry Sam, director of projects at Penplusbytes.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Major aid donors slammed for lack of transparency

By: Emma Rumney

13 Apr 16

Some of the world's largest and most influential aid donors are still falling far short of transparency standards, according to the 2016 Aid Transparency Index, published today.

Publish What You Fund's index found that the majority of the world's donors are still too opaque, including America's USAID, the United Nations humanitarian office and the World Bank's private sector arm.

Italy and ministries in France and Japan were among some of the lowest ranking donors, scoring above only China and the United Arab Emirates.

Jeremiah Sam, a project coordinator at Penplusbytes Ghana, which promotes effective governance through technology in Africa, explained that information on aid is essential to holding governments to account.

"Citizens need to be armed with such knowledge to make informed choices, especially at the polls, and demand good governance."

Aid transparency also gives recipient governments the information needed to plan ahead and allocate resources and increases accountability.

For example, in January this year Oxfam was able to show that $1.9bn of the funds committed to help Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia recover from Ebola had not yet been allocated to any country and that there was little information on how the remaining funds would be made available, holding donors to account.

This year's index found that only 25% of global aid now meets full transparency requirements, meaning the majority are still failing to live up to commitments to openness and hampering the effectiveness of aid.

Rupert Simons, the CEO of Publish What You Fund, highlighted that only 10 out of the world's 46 biggest donors provide enough information to enable recipient governments to plan or for citizens to hold their governments to account.

He said there were "no excuses" for major donors still lagging behind.

China and the UAE both ranked at the bottom of the table, scoring 2.2% and 0.0% respectively. With new donors like this starting to play a bigger role in the aid landscape, transparency of their funds is increasingly salient.

But other well-established players didn't fare much better. Italy, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and France's Ministry of Economics, Finances and Industry all joined China and the UAE in the "very poor" category.

The lowest-ranking eight donors on the index included these five in the "very poor" category as well as Korea, the World Bank's private sector lending arm the International Finance Corporation and the International Monetary Fund, all of which ranked "poor". Information from these donors "is mostly lacking, raising serious doubts about their commitment to transparency", the report said.

Finland (38.5%), Ireland (37%), the UN's Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (37%) and France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (38%) all dropped down into the "poor" category since 2014 because they now either publish less information, publish less frequently or both.

The majority of donors fall into the "fair" category, which is lead by USAID with 59.1%. It also includes other US institutions like the US Treasury, European development banks, France and Japan's development agencies, Belgium, Spain, Australia and the Gates Foundation.

The final 18 organisations rank as "good" or "very good", with the United Nations Development Programme taking the top spot with a score of 93.3%.

UNDP administrator Helen Clark said transparency is important for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, agreed at the UN last year, and for development in general.

"It is encouraging that there has been a marked improvement in aid transparency – but more needs to be done in order to ensure that development is as effective as possible," she said.

UNICEF, the arm of the World Bank dedicated to lending to the poorest countries, the Global Fund, Sweden, and the Asian, African and inter-American development banks all also scored in the top category.

The UK's Department for International Development came in fourth, with 88.3%. But under the UK's new aid strategy, the country's overseas aid budget will be spent by a larger number of government departments including the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence, which commentators have noted are less transparent

source :

Leading institution for promoting effective governance using technology in Africa.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Penplusbytes shares Experience on Aid Data at 2016 Aid Transparency Index Launch

Penplusbytes’ Programmes Director, Jeremiah Sam, will join a panel of discussants at the 2016 Aid Transparency Index launch briefing scheduled to take place on Wednesday, April 13th at the Centre for Global Development, Washington DC, USA.

Mr. Sam, together with other expert panelists - Charles Kenny, Senior Fellow, Center for Global Development, Nancy Lee, Deputy CEO, Millennium Challenge Corporation and Michael O'Neill, Assistant Administrator, UN Development Programme, are expected to bring global perspectives on how to improve Aid transparency in development with keen interest in sharing strategies and mechanisms that can ensure that data is improving aid outcomes, and what lessons can be learnt by others.

The event which is jointly organised by Publish What You Fund and the Centre for Global Development “aims to bridge the policy conversations between donors and recipients on transparency, accountability and country ownership through the use of open aid data,” a statement by the organisers read.

The Aid Transparency Index assesses the state of aid transparency among the world’s major donor organisations. The 2016 Aid Transparency Index is the 5th Index produced by Publish What You Fund and ranks 46 donors, accounting for 98% of Official Development Finance between them.

Jeremiah Sam stated that: “As an organisation, we are dedicated to enhancing Transparency and Accountability in all spheres of resource governance and therefore deem this as an opportunity to share and also learn new ideas and experiences to boost efforts at improving the quality and usefulness of aid data.”

Presenting the key note address will be Helen Clark, Administrator, UN Development Programme as Rupert Simons, CEO of Publish What You Fund, presents on the report findings.

The event is expected to host about 150 policy and technical staff from donor agencies, government officials, NGOs, UN agencies, Congress, embassies, and open development and transparency experts, among others.

Penplusbytes is a not-for-profit organization driving change through innovations in three key areas: using new digital technologies to enable good governance and accountability, new media and innovations, and driving oversight for effective utilisation of mining, oil and gas revenue and resources.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Journalism Opportunity: The McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism

The Harold W. McGraw, Jr. Center for Business Journalism, an initiative of the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, began offering Fellowships to accomplished business journalists in the summer of 2014. Seven veteran journalists were awarded grants of up to $15,000 in the first year of the McGraw Fellowship; six more were named in 2015.

The aim of the McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism is to support in-depth, ambitious coverage of critical issues related to the global economy and business. In an age when many news organizations no longer have the resources to tackle complex, time-consuming stories, the Fellowships enable experienced journalists to do the deep reporting needed to produce a serious piece of investigative, analytic, or narrative journalism. You’ll find more information on the 2014 Fellows and their projects here, and on the 2015 Fellows here.

About the Fellowship

The McGraw Fellowship provides editorial and financial support to journalists who need the time and resources to produce a significant story or series that provides fresh insight into an important business or economic topic. We accept applications for in-depth text, video or audio pieces, and we encourage proposals that take advantage of more than one storytelling form to create a multimedia package.

Typically, we’ll award grants of $5,000 a month for one to three months; in exceptional cases, we’ll consider longer grants based upon specific proposals. We’ll look for applicants with a proven ability to report and execute a complex project in their proposed medium; ideally, candidates will also have a strong background or reporting expertise on the subject of their piece.

 The McGraw Center provides editorial supervision during the Fellowship. We work with the Fellows to develop their projects during the reporting phase and frequently edit the completed stories. We also assist with placing the articles. In some cases, we partner with established print, radio or digital outlets; in others we will publish them as e-books or through the CUNY J-School’s book imprint. The stories also run on the McGraw Center website.


The McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism is open to anyone with at least five years professional experience in journalism. Freelance journalists, as well as reporters and editors currently working at a news organization, may apply.

Applications will generally be accepted twice a year  — in the spring and again in the fall.  The spring deadline for applications is May 31, 2016; the fall deadline is November 30, 2016. However, we will consider time-sensitive projects on a case-by-case basis outside of the deadline periods. If you have a project that you think might qualify, please contact us at or 646-758-7781.

How to Apply

Applicants should submit a well-focused story proposal of no more than three pages through the accompanying online form. Think of it as pitch, much like you would submit to an editor at a newspaper, magazine, digital outlet, or radio station: give us enough preliminary reporting and documentation to demonstrate that the story is solid. The proposal should highlight what’s new and significant about the story, why it matters and what its potential impact might be. If the subject has been covered elsewhere, the proposal should note where those stories have run and how the proposed piece would differ. Applicants should also briefly outline a proposed reporting plan and a timeline for completing the story, and let us know if a media outlet is lined up to run the story.

In addition, applicants should enclose three journalism samples. The samples should be professionally published work that showcases your ability to tackle an in-depth story in the proposed medium. Please also provide us with a resume and references from two editors or others familiar with your work.

More here