02/02/2021

ZAM launches Bureau Afrika

Blog / By Laurens Nijzink

Investigative journalism goes a long way back in ZAM's history. In the early days of this century we entered into collaborations with a new generation of investigative reporters in a growing number of African countries. As a result, and with the assistance of our tireless investigations editor Evelyn Groenink, one mind blowing exposé followed after the other: how ‘fair trade’ turned into a rip off for West-African farmers, how ‘the war against rhino poaching’ took the lives of hundreds of young Mozambican syndicates’ foot soldiers, how ‘the good civil servants’ fight an almost hidden battle against corruption. These are just a few examples of dozens of stories with one common denominator: shaking falsehoods and misconceptions. Quite some stories have not been without consequences: for the good, when eyes were opened, people motivated to engage and changes enforced; for the worse, when some of our colleagues faced intimidation, theft of their equipment and even arrest.

The best news is probably that over the past decades a tender tendency of courageous and energetic investigative reporters have shaken the African landscape. Keeping no stones unturned, whatever hardship they face, the real existence of this new generation of changemakers feed into our excitement about the people’s huge ability to determine a just future.

ZAM's investigative journalism program is guided by a unique philosophy:  while many international projects are driven by the priorities of the donor community the agenda for our investigative agenda is set by our African colleagues. This approach appears to be fruitful, the number of investigations keeps on growing. In the current program The Kleptocracy Project Part II. Anatomy of a System a range of topics are being investigated in 13 African countries. We eagerly await the final outcomes, to be expected in June 2021.

In the past four years ZAM initiated, coordinated and published four groundbreaking reports with a total of 27 investigative stories. You can find the reports here, here, here and here. The reports have found their way to audiences worldwide. Next to these volumes, ZAM publishes on a regular basis investigative stories by African authors and Evelyn Groenink.

You want to hear more about impact? A few examples:

  • Research into the Ajaokuta steel project, and the mismanagement of the donor-funded health budget, both published about locally and in our reports, have led to a legislative hearing and reopening of official investigations.
  • Research into the Mozambican fishery industry violations led to an improvement in the monitoring and prevention in the Cabo Delgado region, where the investigation was started.
  • Two Kenyan investigations, initiated by ZAM, were syndicated as documentaries (Stella’s Web and Shiny New Useless Machines) by Africa Uncensored, in collaboration with Finance Uncovered. In Kenya, the doccies provoked public outcry, media headlines and parliamentary debates in Kenya.

But there is much, much more to be done. Corruption, exposing networks of kleptocracy, showing disastrous consequences of bad governance and wrong-doing is one thing. But to distribute these important stories to wider circles via local African news outlets, ZAM audiences and international media is another. Our African colleagues excellent work deserves a wider readership because this will create more impact.

This is why we today launch ZAM Bureau Afrika. We will:

  • syndicate the outcomes of investigations internationally, targeting wider audiences and providing revenues – an investment in more future investigations.
  • generate more publicity for the investigations through social media, our partner organisations (media, NGO's, civil society organisations, higher education, etc) in Africa and elsewhere in the world and through targeted lobbying of policy and decision makers in government and private sector
  • create a stronger safe space and support center for African investigative journalists. Our colleagues from the continent indicate where and in which way support is required, from legal support, protective security measures or official protest against arrests, intimidation and diplomatic assistance.
  • build the focal point for African investigative journalism in the Netherlands and elsewhere. We are here to facilitate connections between our African colleagues, NGO's, media and governmental organisations looking for often detailed information about developments in African countries.
  • raise funds that make African investigative journalism projects possible. Bureau Afrika builds on already established good relations with both Dutch and foreign funders. We aim to raise more structural funds that allow for multi-year planning of investigative projects.

ZAM Bureau Afrika is part of ZAM and has its physical base in Amsterdam. It takes advantage of ZAM's strong role as connector between African creatives and Western audiences, institutions and international diplomacy as well as its long lasting contacts with national and international news outlets and funders.

ZAM Bureau Afrika is about creating social change for the better. Through local research, global syndication, marketing, targeted lobby and sustainable fundraising.

Please join African changemakers in the struggle against malpractices, the abuse of power, kleptocracy and bad governance. Read and share their stories through the new Twitteraccount @ZAMBureauAfrika, and donate to the Storyfund

Laurens Nijzink (1968) is journalist and co-ordinator of ZAM Bureau Afrika. Before joining ZAM in 2017, he worked as an anthropologist and the last 15 years as freelance journalist in print and audio. Reach him by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone: +31 6 14585456.