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African Roots: DW relaunches successful history format

February 24, 2020

DW has today launched the new season of its popular Social Media and radio project African Roots. A lively debate at the Social Media Week in Lagos, kicked off the journey to some of the cornerstones of African history.


The panel discussion entitled "My history - my African Roots" with young Social media influencers, a historian and a graphic artist focused on how to spread historical knowledge among the youth in the digital world.  

DW's editor-in-chief Ines Pohl took the occasion of the launch to explain the engagement of Germany’s international broadcaster: "In the past, DW users have raised concerns that African history is often dominated by Western narratives and that young Africans don't have easy access to historical documentation."

"African Roots is an exciting project that hopes to help close this gap", Pohl said. "It’s a unique collaboration employing African sources, historians, cultural scientists, writers, journalists and cartoonists. It targets the young generation, which makes up the vast majority of Africa's population."

The series, funded by the German Gerda Henkel Foundation and distributed across Africa in six languages, features two-minute comic style videos, radio explorations and online FAQs. They highlight, among others, Angolan King Afonso I., Morocco's matron of education, 9th-century Fatima al-Fihri, Ethiopian Empress Taytu Betul, Mozambique's graduated freedom fighter, Eduardo Mondlane, and Nigeria's legendary Hausa queen, Amina of Zazzau.

Louis Rwagasore, Burundi
Louis Rwagasore, the unifying prince of BurundiImage: Comic Republic

African Roots started with a first batch of 25 portraits, published in 2018, of personalities that shaped African history. With season two, DW has made available a sum of 50 portraits.

Michael Hanssler, chairman of the board at the Gerda Henkel Foundation, explains that "the promotion of various research projects in Africa aimed at safeguarding and preserving both written and oral historic accounts" are at the heart of the foundation's work. "The foundation wants to support the core idea of 'African Roots' - to communicate the history of the continent to a young audience using African voices."

The webcomics are created by DW in collaboration with the successful Nigerian comic producers of Comic Republic. For the new instalment, the graphics were refined. "It’s fresh, it’s untapped, it’s new and most importantly, there is so much to pull from", says Comic Republic's CEO Jide Martin. "Almost every tribe in Africa has rich stories to tell about their heritage. Through our comics, we bring things alive every single day. That’s a blessing."

A pan-African scientific council has been put in place for verification. One of the council members is Nigerian historian Christopher Ogbogbo.

"Deutsche Welle should be commended for the African Roots program", said Ogbogbo. "With its series of portraits of African heroes and heroines, it will set the African child thinking: 'Who is this person? Can I know more? As the child grows older, he or she can dig deeper to get more information."

DW African Roots | Queen Amina of Zazzau
Hausa Queen Amina of Zazzau

Every week, DW's Africa programs in Amharic, English, French, Hausa, Kiswahili and Portuguese reach 63 million users via Radio, TV and online. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the most DW users worldwide. DW's Facebook followers on the continent total 4.6 million. Previous African Roots publications reached up to 200,000 views on the platform and stirred lively debates among users.