Why do you check what you check? This is one of the questions Africa Check staff get asked most.

We follow four criteria. The most important is evaluating the impact the claim would have if it were left unchecked. We also pay special attention to reader requests.

That said, there are hundreds of claims and suggestions and only a few of us. Here we explain why we selected the claims you are reading about.

21/08/2018: No, China does not own more than 70% of Kenya’s external debt

The size of Kenya’s public debt was a campaign issue in the country’s 2017 elections. The debt is sometimes conflated with China’s role in Kenya. The Asian country financed the standard gauge railway project, the most visible of the government’s economic growth projects.

Its full cost remains unclear because the agreement is closed. This is why the media, keen to get a sense of what Kenya is repaying, quickly seize on regular treasury debt data.

But sometimes the reporting can add to the confusion. One such story by US-based news website Quartz gave China an outsized share (70%) of Kenya’s external debt. Interestingly, its source was accurate.

I’m a keen watcher of China’s role in Africa, so the headline delivered on Google News quickly snagged my attention. Could an economy as large as Kenya’s be so beholden to one lender? Our Kenya editor, Vincent Ng’ethe, was just as puzzled. As debt experts told visiting researcher Carlos Mureithi, the devil is often in the details.

In this case, China does hold 70% of Kenya’s bilateral debt, but only some 20% of the country’s total external debt. This is nearly as much as Kenya owes the World Bank. An accurate picture of the debt burden helps us have a better debate. – Lee Mwiti    

20/08/2018: No, murder rate for women in South Africa hasn’t spiked by 117%

Femicide is a hotly discussed topic in South Africa – especially during August, observed as Women’s Month. A reader suggested we look at a widely reported claim that femicide had increased by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17.

The claim also made it to my inbox via a Google Alert I had set for the topic. I use alerts to keep track of matters on which we have published fact-checks before.

On the face of it, the claim looked solid. It was from a report published by the national statistics body. But I knew from previous experience that a crime is unlikely to jump that much from one period to the next.

By the time our researcher Gopolang Makou contacted Statistics South Africa, they had removed the claim from the report – quietly. But the horse had bolted and international news channel Al Jazeera blazoned the statistic across the screen during a broadcast.

Incorrect data detracts from any cause, no matter how worthy. It also distracts us from finding solutions to a serious problem. Fact-checking brings out the problem’s true extent: our report shows that South Africa had the fourth highest femicide rate worldwide in 2016. – Anim van Wyk