"Turn your face to the sun and the shadows will fall behind you" is an African saying. And that's exactly what a writer must have thought when he wrote about the "Ten Biggest Positive Africa Stories of 2011" for the December issue of The New Yorker magazine. He pointed to the continent's economic boom, the two African women who won the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, and the birth of a new nation. He also included the spread of cell phones which, he wrote, were changing how Africans live. "The devices have proven invaluable: health-care workers use cell phones to track and monitor pregnant women in rural Rwanda (where the number of maternal deaths is high)." The Kenyan mobile banking system, he added, has been called the world's most innovative system, enabling users to conduct business, pay bills, and take out and pay back loans. This signals immense progress in a country where not everyone has a bank account.
Mobile communication creates new possibilities for many in Africa. It enables the spread of news and information, particularly in countries lacking freedom of the press. In 2011, I spoke several times with Brenda Burell, the technical director of Freedom Fone. This project, developed by the Zimbabwean non-governmental organization Kubatana.net, enables users - including illiterate users - to access uncensored news with specially-developed, interactive voice menus. The Freedom Fone in Zimbabwe, Burell says, is just the beginning, and adds that the software can be used worldwide in areas where people have no Internet connection or cannot afford or access other sources of uncensored information.
DW-AKADEMIE is working with the Freedom Fone project in Zimbabwe. In 2011 a major focus of our work was supporting and developing the media with projects in numerous African countries. We did this with the help of sponsors and partners - particularly the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Our ongoing aim is to support those who are against censorship and are working towards freedom of the press. And to work with those - to refer back to the African saying - who want to support us in throwing more light with fewer shadows on the African media market. We aim to continue this in 2012 and welcome your support.