Investigative Journalism Key in Shaping the Climate Narrative in Africa

Journalism plays a key role in the establishment of a free and truly democratic society. It requires the journalist to go beyond desk-based research and to truly dive into the issues at hand, finding out new information, casting a truthful light on what is being done in the dark, and in some cases bringing life to stories people never knew about.

In our open-access Sustainable Energy webinar series hosted in partnership with HiVOS, Tunicia Phillips-Jegels (News Anchor and Investigative Journalist at KayaFM, South Africa) highlighted a key the important role investigative journalism plays in uncovering the truth and breathing life into the human stories. 

“Don’t sit in front of a computer all the time, it’s important to actually get out there in the grassroots communities and find out the stories.”

Phillips-Jegels commented, as she encouraged journalists to go in search of the most interesting stories, placing emphasis on how ordinary communities are mobilising and finding sustainable solutions. 

There is great value in linking these stories to people’s daily lives and the bigger energy security picture in Africa. 

Interested in learning more about investigating clean energy in Africa?

As her fellow guest speaker, Monkgogi Otlhogile (Platform for Energy Access Knowledge Manager, Power for All and Energy Consultant in Botswana)  pointed out, energy security is linked to all aspects of life, society, politics, the environment, and the economy, so journalists need to be empowered with the knowledge of the industry to effectively communicate the issues surrounding the sector. 

Amayo Passy, Programme Officer at Society for International Development (SID) for Sustainable Energy Futures Programme shed light as well on the importance of Africa getting to a position where the journalists are able to write comprehensively and  in an interesting way about the very technical energy sector. “

Sometimes it is hard for the ordinary person to understand what is being said, but it is important that journalists understand first of all, so that they can use creative storytelling to effectively communicate the critical information to the wider public and push governments and the private sector toward the sustainable energy direction.”

Yvonne Nyokabi Nzomo (UNFCCC Kenya Lead), shared in an earlier webinar that in Samburu Country, in Kenya, they realised that children’s education could be improved through solar energy. They created a lantern which provide good power for reading and for other tasks around the house. With this, they were able to improve education through access to solar energy. Retainment was improved throughout the year by 60% – 70% across six schools. This kept children in school and the energy was clean, no relying on wood, which would usually be the case. 

It is these types of on-the-ground stories that journalists need to get into and publicise in order for the African climate change narrative to make a change for the better. 

Monkgogi encourages those journalists interested in investigative journalism the consider using Power For All’s “Platform for Energy Access Knowledge” (PEAK). It is an inter­ac­tive infor­ma­tion exchange plat­form designed to help aggre­gate and repack­age the best research and infor­ma­tion into com­pelling data-​​​driven sto­ries to bring energy access to all. 

When asked for her best advice, Tunicia suggested using Pipl for investigation and research and shared that journalists must never underestimate the power of social media. Through social media, you can form connections with the higher level decision makers but you can also connect with the grassroots communities. 

Always try to find the links between the major issues and the effects on the grassroots communities,” she shared. 

As journalists, it’s our responsibility to create connections. Who has the power to effect much-needed energy divestment? What are the facts the public needs to be made aware of regarding the energy sector in Africa? Only if we ask ourselves these crucial questions, will we find the answers and discover routes to stories that make a difference and inspire change.

Dizzanne Billy
Dizzanne is the Caribbean Regional Director at Climate Tracker, a freelance writer, and an all-around storyteller. With a special place in her heart for the beach, cats, and Coldplay, she's experienced in journalism, communications, marketing, and finding the perfect song to suit any situation.