Salim Amin has some big shoes to fill. His father, Mohamed Amin, is widely regarded as one of Africa’s finest photojournalists. He covered Ethiopian famine, the fall of Idi Amin and of Mengistu, and recorded some of the darkest – and most important – stories from the continent. He died in 1996 while trying to stop the hijacking of a plane bound from Ethiopia to Kenya. In 2006, Salim honored his father’s memory with an award-winning biographical film. His next project aims to honor his father’s work in a different way.
Amin is the founder of A24, a new media company that features video from producers around the African continent. When Amin spoke at last year’s TED Africa conference, he was describing the project as a continent-wide news network. His recently-launched website reveals slightly different ambitions – A24, as currently concieved, is a distributor of African-produced video news content for African and global audiences. Content creators are able to sell their work through the site, keeping 60% of the revenue, and continue to hold rights to their work.
When I talked to Amin in Tanzania last year, I was worried that he was putting himself in competition with CNBC Africa, SABC and Al Jazeera, all of which have ambitions to be the television voice of the continent. I also know that many folks have tried building Africa-wide television networks, including my friends at AllAfrica.com, who’ve been quite successful in building a distribution service for African newspaper content, but who backed away from television ambitions. It’s extremely expensive to build bureaus across the continent and building distribution relationships with satellite and terrestrial channels could take years.
Instead, A24 is using a model similar to Public Radio Exchange, a project founded by my Berkman Center colleague Jake Shapiro. PRX showcases audio material from independent producers, making it possible for public radio stations to audition and buy content. A24 does the same thing with video, featuring stories that can be plugged into other station’s newscasts, or the raw material necessary for a network to produce a story with their own talent: the video and script necessary to produce a segment in English or French. A24 hopes to feature material from independent producers and NGOs as well as from broadcast networks – the system is designed so that a Kenyan broadcaster could post content, and a Ghanaian broadcaster could purchase it and run it locally.
The site’ still got a few rough edges – not all the features are working yet and I had trouble downloading some of the video. But I couldn’t be happier with the ambitions of the project: “An African Voice Telling the African Story”.
Thanks to Kenyan Pundit for tipping me off to A24’s launch. KP also reminded me that video isn’t the only way we can get African stories, with a link to Mendi, a fantastic new blogger writing from Gulu, Uganda. She’s a very funny woman, and she’s “Living in Africa -so the rest of y’all don’t have to!” I highly recommend living vicariously through her.