From just one initiative in 2014, there were 20 active fact checking initiatives across Africa by 2018. Today, there are 35. What is driving the rise of African fact checkers and what are the implications of this trend?
Editor's note: This essay is available in our print issue, A New Chapter for African Artefacts?. Buy the issue here.
In 2007, Yahya Jammeh, then the president of Gambia, announced a cure for HIV/AIDS. In 2013, one in three South Africans were habitual drug users. In 2013, the most expensive South African film ever made, the Idris Elba-starring Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, sustained 12,000 jobs over two years. 70 per cent of Zimbabwe’s men are raising someone else’s children, while, confoundedly, Zimbabwe’s condom use per person is the highest in the world. Tap water in every African country is unsafe for human consumption. Usain Bolt can outrun a mosquito.
The foregoing are ‘facts’ about Africa you can find in popular mass media. Except these facts are all false.
Fact checking is a vital field, even more so in an age of populism. The task of separating fact from fiction is never-ending. Yet, fact checking has always existed as a niche endeavour of the journalism landscape. Traditionally, fact checking was exclusively within the purview of news organizations, who had internal procedures for verifying facts prior to publication. Nowadays, even organizations outside the journalism industry conduct fact checking exercises. The practice has grown rapidly—especially across Africa. In 2014, there were around 44 fact checking organizations around the world. Five years later, in 2019, this increased to 18 across more than 60 countries. From just one initiative in 2014, there were 20 active fact checking initiatives across Africa by 2018. Today, there are 35.
This essay features in our print issue, ‘A New Chapter for African Artefacts?' and is only available online to paying subscribers. To subscribe, buy a subscription plan here from N1,000 / month (students) and N3,500 / month (non-students). Already a subscriber? log in.