The Africa Narrative was originally established in 2018 as a research-led project aimed at generating greater public knowledge of Africa and ultimately, strengthening engagement with the continent. Recognizing the pivotal role of media and entertainment in shaping perceptions and opinion of the continent, TAN partnered with the Norman Lear Center at USC for its inaugural research, Africa in the Media released in 2019. A seminal study funded by the Ford Foundation, its findings put in stark relief how Africa and Africans barely register on US television and depictions of Africa are broadly negative.
Prompted by the findings of the AIM study, YouTube partnered with The Africa Narrative and The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), to launch a short film competition aimed at finding and showcasing new storytelling talent based in Sub Saharan Africa.
The winners were flown to Los Angeles in February 2020 to participate in a day of workshops, production training, and networking with the entertainment industry at YouTube Space LA as well as a red-carpet screening at PAFF, the largest black film festival in North America.
Two of the winning directors of the competition went on to find even greater success. Street Dancers by Nick Wambugu (Kenya) was made into a BBC feature documentary film, and The Letter Reader by Sibusiso Khuzwayo (South Africa) was acquired by Netflix.
Seeing up close the tangible impact of supporting African creatives and bringing their storytelling to a global audience served as a turning point in redirecting the mission of The Africa Narrative.
In July 2022, after a two-year hiatus, The Africa Narrative relaunched as a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening capacity in the continent’s creative economy and amplifying the global visibility of African cultural soft power.