The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, has been named the 2023 recipient of the coveted Eisenhower Fellows’ Impact Award by US-based Eisenhower Fellowships (EF).
The award is in recognition of his successful establishment and operationalisation of Ghana’s first independent, non-profit, public-interest accountability journalism project, The Fourth Estate at the MFWA.
“I write to congratulate you on your selection as the recipient of the 2023 Eisenhower Fellowships’ Impact Award,” the award letter from EF President, George de Lama, stated.
“Your project was selected as the winner in a highly competitive field by a distinguished panel of Trustees, Fellows, outside experts, and senior EF Staff. The panel noted that The Fourth Estate Investigative Journalism Project is directly tied to your Fellowship Programme and has produced a wide-ranging impact that includes promoting transparency and good governance, protecting public health, and prosecuting criminals,” the award letter noted.
The award will be presented to Sulemana by Former US Secretary of Defence and Chairman of EF, Hon. Robert M. Gates, during EF’s 70th anniversary World Forum in San Francisco. As part of the award, he will receive $10,000 to support the work of The Fourth Estate project.
“On behalf of the EF Board of Trustees, please accept my best wishes for winning this coveted honour. Your project exemplifies EF’s mission to create a world more peaceful, prosperous and just. We look forward to recognising your impact before the entire EF community later this year,” the award letter said.
Eisenhower Fellowships was established in 1953, in honour of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, for his contribution to humanity as a soldier, statesman, and world leader.
In 2019, Sulemana was named among 21 other visionary leaders from around the world as an Eisenhower Global Fellow. As his Fellowship project, he decided to establish an independent, non-profit, public-interest journalism project at the MFWA. The establishment of such a newsroom, he argued, was one of the critical steps towards countering the dearth of credible, critical, independent public-interest journalism in Ghana and across West Africa.
From March 27 to May 9, 2019, Sulemana travelled to several cities across nine states in the US as an Eisenhower Global Fellow, to meet with top media experts, media academics, and journalists in some of the topmost US media Think Tanks, universities, and newsrooms to discuss the project and to seek inputs.
Notably, he travelled and met with editors and journalists from the Philadelphia Enquirer, in Philadelphia; the Chicago Tribune, in Chicago; Seattle Times, in Seattle; ProPublica in New York; Bloomberg News in New York; and Tampa Bay Times in Tampa, Florida.
He visited and interacted with senior officials at the Nieman Centre at Harvard University; the Lanfest Institute in Philadelphia; the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida; and the Knight Science Journalism Centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His itinerary also included visiting and interacting with journalism Professors at the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia University, Sandford University, and the University of Boston.
To explore the role and implications of big tech on online journalism, Sulemana visited the headquarters of Facebook (now Meta), and Google and interacted with senior officials including Google’s Vice President of News, Richard Gingras.
By the end of his Fellowship journey, he had firmed up the Fellowship project idea and was convinced that the project was feasible and sustainable. Back in Ghana, he started engagements with colleagues and other experts and vigorously mobilised resources for the project. The Covid-19 pandemic delayed plans to commence the project in 2020.
In 2021, he recruited a team of seven full-time journalists and appointed investigative journalist, Manasseh Azure Awuni, as the project’s first Editor-in-Chief. Two years on, The Fourth Estate has established itself as a leading platform for credible, public-interest investigative journalism in Ghana and has earned the praise of many for its impact-oriented publications. Stories by The Fourth Estate have compelled judges, Members of Parliament (MPs), and other senior government appointees to comply with the legal and constitutional requirement to declare their assets. Other stories have led to ongoing prosecutions of a number of persons on corruption-related charges, while other reports have resulted in changes in policies and practices by both private and public institutions.
Eisenhower Fellowships (EF) identifies, empowers, and connects innovative leaders through a transformative fellowship experience and lifelong engagement with a diverse, dynamic, global network of change agents committed to creating a world more peaceful, prosperous, and just. EF was founded by a group of Philadelphia businessmen in 1953 to celebrate President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first birthday in the White House and has a distinguished history as an independent, nonpartisan, international leadership organization.