The Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling


Dorcas Wangira at the Michael Elliott Award 2019 ceremony. In her speech, she said she will only stop telling stories about female genital mutilation the day it stops.

The Michael Elliott Award for Excellence in African Storytelling, a collaboration between the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the ONE Campaign, and the Elliott family, honors up-and-coming journalists in Africa who strives to strengthen people's voices and illuminate the transformational change taking place on the continent.

Thanks to the award’s many donors and the generous support of The Economist, ICFJ is pleased to announce that in 2021 we are expanding the competition to honor two award winners who published groundbreaking journalistic work between December 1, 2019 and December 1, 2020.  Entries will be selected on the quality of the piece and the impact their work has had in communities. We welcome excellent submissions in all media, especially those that demonstrate analytical skills in addition to outstanding writing ability.

The Award was established in honor of Michael Elliott, an outstanding editor, philanthropist, and former ICFJ director, whose life was a testament to the power of storytelling to bear witness to and improve the human condition. Elliott served as a distinguished editor at The Economist, Newsweek, and Time before becoming CEO of ONE. In 2016, he had spoken of his dream to establish an award that would bring together his belief in great journalism with his commitment to progress in Africa.

Past award winners include Mercy Juma and Dorcas Wangira of Kenya, and Kiki Mordi and Abubakar Ibrahim from Nigeria. Each was awarded a $5,000 cash prize. Wangira's award-winning story, “The App and The Cut,” covered the harm caused by female genital mutilation and the hope offered by five high school girls who invented an app to connect vulnerable girls with resources and rescue centers. Juma's story, “Teen Mums of Kwale,” tells of primary school girls whose families make the controversial choice to let them use contraceptives even though the practice is taboo in the Muslim communities of Kenya’s Kwale County. Ibrahim's piece, "All That Was Familiar," chronicles the struggle of two women --one from Cameroon and one from Nigeria -- to find their loved ones who have been internally displaced by Boko Haram's insurgency. Mordi’s story, “Sex for Grades,” exposes sexual harassment in African universities. Read more about Mordi, the 2020 award winner, here.


About the Award

This prestigious annual award honors an emerging journalist in Africa who strives to strengthen people's voices and illuminate the transformational change taking place on the continent.

In a special study tour organized by ICFJ, past winners have spent time in U.S. newsrooms in Washington, D.C., and New York City to learn new skills and share knowledge. In 2019, the winner also completed a two-week internship at The Economist's headquarters in London, United Kingdom.

Due to ongoing travel restrictions as a result of COVID-19, the 2021 program will take place virtually. ICFJ will arrange a series of approximately 10 virtual meetings over the course of the fellowship, featuring media and experts from U.S. and U.K. newsrooms as well as former Michael Elliott Award winners. ICFJ will tailor these sessions to the interests of the award winners. The sessions will include meetings with journalists from prominent international outlets, such as the Washington Post, The Economist, Al Jazeera and others.

The winners will be invited to take part in a virtual internship with prestigious media outlets where they will have access to editorial meetings and media experts and share their own experiences with top journalists.

To take full advantage of the training opportunities offered, applicants must speak English, even if they work in another language. The two 2021 winners will also receive a $5,000 cash prize.

Applications for the 2021 cycle are now open. The application deadline is Monday, February 15, 2021 at 11:59 EST. You can apply here.



  • The contest is open to English-speaking journalists working in Africa for print, broadcast and online news media. Applicants must have no more than 10 years of journalism experience.
  • Applicants must submit one published piece that exemplifies Africa through thoughtful reporting and excellent storytelling. We are looking for impactful investigative or explanatory pieces, especially those that illuminate transformational change in Africa.
  • A copy of the published story or broadcast clip must be submitted in English. Works in other languages must include English translations. We welcome submissions from print, broadcast or digital journalists. Multimedia submissions may include web, audio, video, visual or mixed media.
  • The submitted story must be published between December 1, 2019, and December 1, 2020. 

A distinguished international jury including media leaders from the US, UK, and Africa will select the winners.

We will reach out to all applicants to notify them of their status by the spring of 2021.