Omidyar Network‘s Luminate is investing $1m to launch a dedicated hub for journalists, publishers and media entrepreneurs dubbed the Baraza Media Lab to boost their capacity to report in the public interest.
The Baraza Media Lab will be run in partnership with Mettā to strengthen collaboration, networks and skills. It will also provide an enabling environment for independent media to thrive and provide the space for innovation to happen within the media industry.
In a statement, Ory Okolloh, Managing Director at Luminate, said: “We believe that supporting a vibrant media eco-system in Kenya is critical on a number of fronts. The Baraza Media Lab will be an important anchor for journalists and entrepreneurs alike. We look forward to working with the community and other partners as we build something transformative.”
The launch comes at a time when Kenyan media faces several challenges. A 2018 research report by Reboot found that the key challenges facing Kenya’s media ecosystem include a lack of innovation among media organisations, skills gaps among media practitioners, weak networking between media and aligned sectors and downsizing at major media houses.
The Baraza Media Lab will serve as the go-to place for media practitioners, thus helping to build crucial relationships within media, as well as among media, civil society and the citizenry. It will also run a content programme that delivers journalist-centered training, to address the explicit needs of journalists in the community and will foster innovation in the sector to help media beyond the conventional readership- and membership-based models.
Training will include modules such as innovative content delivery, payment infrastructure, and the wider use of technology like data and analytics.
The Baraza Media Lab will be based at Keystone Park in Riverside, Nairobi, and is expected to open before the end of the year.
Baraza Media Lab looks like a personal project of Okolloh, who is a lawyer and political scientist by training and has been at the forefront of civil rights education in Africa and held various public policy roles in global organizations like Google. As a co-founder of iHub and Ushahidi and an outspoken blogger and media pundit and avid reader, Okolloh is totally at home with media in Africa. Okolloh is also passionate about civic empowerment, financial transparency, independent media and public policy in Africa.
It’s right to say that due to her passions, she saw Omidyar invest in Budgit, Sahara Reporters, Code for Africa, Infonet, Insight TWI among others. Finally, Okolloh and her media pundits have something to write home about. It won’t be surprising to see platforms like Owaah and The Elephant among others as the first independent beneficiaries.
Churchill Otieno, President of the Kenya Editors Guild, noted: “The Baraza Media Lab launch marks a watershed moment in the push to strengthen media freedom and independence in Kenya. For years, the Kenyan media sector has faced pressing challenges – including commercial pressure, low capacity, a legal framework fraught with gaps, and weak cooperation with external stakeholders. We envision that the Baraza Media Lab will serve as a catalyst to rekindle strong skills development, more collaboration, and ultimately stronger independence in the sector.”
Maurice Otieno, General Manager of Mettā Nairobi said the Baraza Media Lab will act as the melting point of media support from talent, content, funding, and a place that journalists can call home.
Luminate is not the only organization doing something about media. The Aga Khan University and DW recently launched an innovation hub and fund set to invest $15000 into promising media startups in Kenya.