Strengthening Civil Society and Developing Independent Media in Africa
The project aimed to support six existing street papers in African cities as well as to establish a new paper in Lagos. The overall development goal was to support people selling newspapers to earn a living and at the same time fulfil a broader social need for independent information on social issues The project involved: sharing of stories among the participating papers, through a regional coordination unit in Zambia; training for vendors and journalists, through a regional training coordinator and with support from outside journalists; a feasibility study and establishment of the Lagos paper; and advocacy to the broader public through the regional news service.. The International Network of Street Papers Foundation – the umbrella group managing the coordination among papers – was in a position effectively to support the project by obtaining funding and by taking on project coordination and supervision tasks. These factors ensured the overall relevance of the project. The project’s achievements, in the face of complex logistical challenges, demonstrated that groups of committed, skilled civil society activists can achieve significant results, as the sections below will highlight. However, the project’s relevance was diminished by a number of design flaws. There was an imbalance between the objectives of the project – which concerned the development of media freedom and independent news, as well as empowerment of the poor – and the project activities, which were directed towards capacity building of the papers themselves and towards training.