Back to Africa Check

Ten years of Africa Check: a brief history

From two desks in a university department to four African country offices and a respected presence in a global network of fact-checkers, this is the story of Africa Check’s first decade.

“We can't forgive the person who started this rumour,” said Aminu Ahmed Tudun-Wada.

That’s how Africa Check founder Peter Cunliffe-Jones begins an account of the inspiration for the continent’s first independent fact-checking organisation.

Tudun-Wada is from Kano state in northern Nigeria. At the age of three, in 1963, polio permanently paralysed his legs. The polio vaccine became available a few years later.

“In 2002, when his son Umar was born, an unfounded rumour about polio vaccination spread in the region and led authorities to ban the vaccine,” Cunliffe-Jones writes. “Soon afterwards, baby Umar contracted polio too.”

Tudun-Wada now heads a pro-vaccine movement.

In the year Umar turned 10, Africa Check was founded. Ten years after that, we’re part of a vibrant international fact-checking community. We sort fact from fiction, and help media across Africa do the same.

Here’s a timeline of our work.

2011

Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Peter Cunliffe-Jones develops a proposal for Africa’s first fact-checking project. The proposal is supported by the AFP Foundation.

Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, agrees to host Africa Check in its Wits Journalism department.

2012

April 2012 – A “project to develop an African network of fact-checking websites and train future African journalists in fact-checking” is one of 14 winners of the News Innovation Contest held by Austria’s International Press Institute. A fledgling Africa Check is awarded US$50,000 in seed funding from Google.

June 2012The Africa Check community interest company (CIC) legal entity is established in the UK. The AFP Foundation tasks Peter Cunliffe-Jones with the launch of Africa Check.

September 2012 – Wits Journalism’s Ruth Becker becomes Africa Check’s first editor, on a part-time basis. She and researcher Ntombi Dyosop help prepare the Africa Check website for launch.

October 2012Wits Journalism professor Anton Harber launches the website at the African Investigative Journalism Conference in Johannesburg.

2013

February 2013Africa Check fact-checks its first state of the nation address (Sona) by a South African president – this time, Jacob Zuma. Sona fact-checking becomes an annual project at Africa Check’s South African office.

March 2013 Julian Rademeyer becomes Africa Check’s first full-time editor. Kate Wilkinson joins as a researcher. The two are based at Wits University in South Africa.

2014

November 2014 Africa Check and the AFP Foundation launch the first African Fact-Checking Awards. The winners – independent Ghanaian filmmakers Edem Srem and Gifty Andoh Appiah – are announced at an event hosted by the African Media Initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. The awards have been held every year since, with an ever-increasing number of candidates.

2015

February 2015 TRi Facts, Africa Check’s training unit, is established. The unit educates media workers across Africa in fact-checking, encouraging the practice on the continent.

April 2015 – The Africa Check Trust is registered as a legal entity in South Africa. It oversees our operations in the country.

September 2015 Assane Diagne, based in Senegal and previously from Senegalese Press Agency, becomes Africa Check’s first francophone editor. He begins work on the French-language Africa Check website.

September 2015 – Africa Check becomes a founding member and first chair of the advisory board of the International Fact-Checking Network, or IFCN. Based at the nonprofit Poynter Institute in the US, the IFCN brings fact-checkers across the world together in the global fight against misinformation and disinformation.

October 2015 Anim van Wyk becomes the chief editor of Africa Check, at the South African office.

October 2015 – Africa Check’s second office is established in Dakar, Senegal. The team is hosted at Dakar’s Ejicom school of journalism. Assane Diagne is the editor.

November 2015 – The Senegal office’s French-language website is launched at Africa Check’s second annual fact-checking awards in Johannesburg, South Africa. Ben Ezeamalu of Nigeria’s Premium Times wins the awards’ top spot.

2016

June 2016 – Africa Check and the South African radio station Power FM launch a late-night fact-checking show.

November 2016 – Africa Check opens a third office, in Lagos, Nigeria. David Ajikobi is appointed as Nigeria editor.

2017

January 2017 – Africa Check’s fourth office is set up in Nairobi, Kenya. Alphonce Shiundu is appointed as Kenya editor.

April 2017 – The first ever International Fact-checking Day is held to enlist ordinary people in fact-checking efforts. 

July 2017 Africa Check and the KTN News Kenya channel put fact-checking on primetime TV.

November 2017 – Africa Check hosts the inaugural Africa Facts network meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. For the first time, fact-checkers from across the continent come together to discuss the fight against misinformation and disinformation in Africa.

2018

February 2018 We launch our fact-checking fellowship programme, with up-and-coming fact-checkers from several African countries given immersive training at Africa Check’s country offices.

May 2018   Africa Check’s Promise tracker is launched to keep politicians honest ahead of national elections in Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal.

June 2018 Africa Check joins Global Fact 5 in Rome, Italy. It’s the fifth annual gathering of the International Fact-Checking Network. Africa Check wins the award for the best correction.

June 2018 Africa Check’s Nigeria office launches a weekly fact-checking programme on Radio One 103.5 FM Lagos.

July 2018 TRi Facts, Africa Check’s training unit, is registered in South Africa as a for-profit company. The company’s earnings help sustain Africa Check’s work.

August 2018 Africa Check partners with major Nigerian newspapers – the Guardian, Business Day, Daily Trust and Punch – to bring fact-checking to a broader audience.

September 2018 The Africa Check Foundation is registered as a legal entity in Kenya.

October 2018 – Africa Check joins the Meta (then Facebook) independent third-party fact-checking programme. This gives us the resources to fact-check harmful claims on social media. It also, with TRi Facts, helps increase our earned income.

2019

January 2019 Samba Badji becomes editor of Africa Check’s French-language website in Senegal.

January 2019 Ahead of South Africa’s national elections, Africa Check and City Press launch the #ElectionCheck campaign. The campaign produces a series of special reports fact-checking promises and claims by the ruling African National Congress, as well as the opposition Democratic Alliance and Economic Freedom Fighters.

February 2019 Info Finder, a tool that helps people find reliable online information about certain countries on the continent, is launched on Africa Check’s English-language website.

February 2019 We fact-check a South African president’s state of the nation address (Sona) live, in partnership with the eNCA TV channel. Africa Check has examined Sona claims since 2013, but this is the first time we do it as it happens.

March 2019A South Africa-registered trust becomes Africa Check’s controlling body, with the UK-registered CIC moving to a support role. A new board is formed, with members from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal.

April 2019A monthly French-language fact-checking show is launched on Radio France Internationale. The project is supported by Africa Check, AFP Factuel and Observateurs de France 24.

May 2019 Africa Check and South African podcasting company Volume launch What’s Crap on WhatsApp? This lighthearted voice-note podcast, sent via WhatsApp, discusses and debunks false claims circulating on the popular messaging app. The podcast goes on to win the 2019 Poynter IFCN Fact Forward Fund Award.

May 2019 – The UK’s Full Fact and Open Data Institute, Argentina’s Chequeado, and Africa Check are, in partnership, one of 20 Google AI Impact Challenge grantees for the year. The project uses AI – artificial intelligence – and machine learning to extract statements claimed as fact from online media and parliamentary records, allowing us to fact-check the statements.

June 2019 – Africa Check hosts Africa Facts 2, the second Africa Facts network meeting, in Cape Town, South Africa. 

June 2019 Noko Makgato is appointed as Africa Check’s executive director.

July 2019 Lee Mwiti becomes Africa Check’s chief editor. Kate Wilkinson is appointed as deputy chief editor.

September 2019 Infothèque is launched as a guide to French-language sources of reliable information, supporting the English-language Info Finder. A #YouAsked tab is added to Info Finder and Infothèque, answering users’ questions.

September 2019 – The Model United Nations, based at the South African Institute of International Affairs at Wits University since 1994, appoints Africa Check to give fact-checking and media literacy training to the high school students in its programme.

September 2019 – Africa Check contributes to an inquiry into media ethics and credibility, facilitated by the South African National Editors’ Forum.

October 2019 – Africa Check and the Media Council of Kenya sign an agreement to work together to help train journalists in fact-checking, and encourage mainstream media outlets to transparently correct errors and set up fact-checking desks in their newsrooms.

October 2019 – A quiz is added to the Info Finder and Infothèque tools to attract users and help them retain accurate information.

2020

January 2020 Matter of Fact with Africa Check, a show broadcast on South Africa’s 702 and Cape Talk radio stations every two weeks, is launched. In the following months, it debunks false information about the growing Covid pandemic.

March 2020 – We establish the position of outreach coordinator, who contacts the sources of false or misleading claims and requests public corrections. This results in Africa Check securing its highest number of corrections and withdrawals since 2017. Our first outreach coordinator is Thipe Maelane.

March 2020 – Africa Check partners with Google to pilot two tools in Nigeria – Question Hub and Trends – to explore how they can help inform editorial decisions on which claims to fact-check, and narrow down content to focus on.

June 2020 – The first highly engaging first episode of our #KeepTheFactsGoing media literacy series is distributed to our WhatsApp broadcast lists. The podcast version is also published on our website and SoundCloud, and broadcast by radio stations. #KeepTheFactsGoing content is then adapted to video format, uploaded on YouTube, with our team presenting step-by-step instructions on practical ways to sort fact from fiction. Topics include how to verify breaking news and investigate Twitter accounts.

October 2020 – We pilot AI tools, including the Alpha claim detection tool. This is designed to help fact-checking organisations make better decisions, despite limited time and resources. The project is funded with a grant won in collaboration with Full Fact in the UK and Chequeado in Argentina.

December 2020 – Our coronavirus fact-checks are included in the BBC’s Covid-19 in Africa library and the International Fact-Checking Network’s CoronaVirusFacts Alliance database of fact-checks from over 70 countries.

December 2020 – Our Info Finder and Infothèque tools grow rapidly to cover six countries, with Ghana and Zimbabwe now included. This is thanks to partnerships with ZimFact in Zimbabwe, GhanaFact in Ghana and Dubawa in Nigeria and Ghana.

December 2020 – We partner with the World Health Organization’s Africa Infodemic Response Alliance in the Viral Facts Africa project, which uses the insights and reach of a network of 14 organisations to counter health misinformation and “inoculate” people against falsehoods. The alliance is praised as the first to bring together international and regional organisations and fact-checking groups, combining data and behavioural science.

2021

January 2021 – The Africa Check website is overhauled to create a better experience for visitors.

April 2021 – We launch the Fact Ambassadors Programme, which uses a network of accurate information “champions” who share fact-checking and media literacy content in local languages on social media. Eighty-nine Fact Ambassadors are selected and equipped to independently spot and tackle misinformation and disinformation.

July 2021 – The #KnowtheFactsGettheVax multimedia campaign is launched. The video series helps the public learn more about Covid-19 and its vaccines, and how to understand and use important healthcare information.

July 2021 For the first time, we receive more than 200 entries for the African Fact-Checking Awards. A total of 216 fact-checkers and journalists from 23 countries across the continent submit their work for the eighth edition of the awards.

September 2021 – The interactive radio dramas On Top Di Matta (Pidgin) and Diisoo Ngir Aaru (Wolof for Join Forces to Protect) are launched to debunk Covid-19 vaccine misinformation in Nigeria and Senegal.

November 2021 – The #StandUp4Facts campaign begins, providing our Fact Ambassadors with more engaging content to distribute to their networks. Comedians, satirists and content creators – such as Schalk Bezuidenhout and Esther “Lerato” Kazungu – create short videos that tackle misinformation and its relevant themes.

2022

February 2022 – Our outreach project ramped up with the appointment of Dudu Mkhize to lead the work of actively engaging sources of misinformation and seeking behaviour change.

June 2022 - Africa Check launched its Matter of Fact media literacy campaign – a series focused on elections and civic misinformation literacy in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.  The campaign comprises over 20 discrete content pieces in text, video, audio and visual format, as well as in–and–out–of–school media literacy workshops.

Add new comment

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
limit: 600 characters

Want to keep reading our fact-checks?

We will never charge you for verified, reliable information. Help us keep it that way by supporting our work.

Become a newsletter subscriber

Support independent fact-checking in Africa.