The Africa Narrative was originally established in 2018 as a research-led project aimed at improving public knowledge of Africa. TAN partnered with the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California 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 the negative stereotypes of Africa and Africans depicted on US television.
Prompted by the findings of the AIM study, YouTube partnered with TAN and The Pan African Film Festival (PAFF), to launch a short film competition aimed at finding and showcasing new storytelling talent based in Africa.
The winners were flown to Los Angeles in February 2020 to participate in a day of workshops, production training, networking with the entertainment industry, and a red-carpet screening at PAFF, the largest black film festival in North America. The competition was an all-around success with two of the winning directors going on to achieve greater success with their films: Street Dancers (Kenya) was made into a BBC feature documentary, and The Letter Reader (South Africa) was acquired by Netflix.