The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA), Sulemana Braimah, has received the 2023 Eisenhower Fellowships’ James and Carol Hovey Impact Award.
The United States (U.S.)-based Eisenhower Fellowships (EF) honoured him for being the brain behind the MFWA’s impactful investigative journalism project, The Fourth Estate.
The American non-profit organisation in May this year announced Mr Braimah as winner of the prestigious award in recognition of his successful establishment and operationalisation of Ghana’s first independent, non-profit, public-interest accountability journalism project.
However, it was not until last Friday that he picked the award before more than 400 people from 56 countries.
Reacting to the honour done him, Mr Braimah said it was the collective effort of the staff of the MFWA that had ensured the success of The Fourth Estate, and the resulting recognition.
“I don’t think it is just my personal individual work that was acknowledged. I think it is the collective work that we’ve done over the last two years on The Fourth Estate project,” he said.
He added that the magnitude of the recognition should be a “motivating factor” to fortify the position of The Fourth Estate, as an impactful platform.
The Former U.S. Defence Secretary and Chairman of Eisenhower Fellowships’ Board of Trustees, Robert Gates, presented the award to Mr Braimah.
Secretary Gates is revered in the U.S. for being the only person in the country’s history to have held the critical position of Defence Secretary under two Presidents from the two main parties – Republican’s George W. Bush and Democrat’s Barack Obama.
Melinda Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was awarded the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service.
Recalling his experience at the ceremony, Mr Braimah said, “it was an honour to be in the company of Secretary Gates; EF President, George De Lama, and Melinda Gates for conversations ahead of the awards.”
In May 2023, Mr Braimah received an award letter from EF President, George de Lama, that indicated he had been selected for this year’s Eisenhower Fellowships’ Impact Award.
The award letter stated that:
“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 letter noted that the establishment of The Fourth Estate aligned with EF’s aims of creating a better and sustainable world.
“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 US, for his contribution to humanity as a soldier, statesman, and world leader.
In 2019, Mr Braimah was chosen among 21 ingenious leaders around the world to be an Eisenhower Global Fellow. He decided to establish an independent, non-profit, public-interest journalism project at the MFWA as his Fellowship project.
His conviction that Ghana and West Africa needed more essentially moral, merciless, and independent public-interest journalism platforms informed the decision to establish The Fourth Estate.
To do so, Mr Braimah travelled to several cities across nine states in the U.S. as an Eisenhower Global Fellow, to meet with top media experts, media academics, and journalists in some of the topmost U.S. 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.
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, and other senior government appointees to comply with the legal and constitutional requirements 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.