Tolu Ogunlesi wins 2009 CNN Multichoice Arts and Culture Journalism Award



Tolu Ogunlesi, from Nigeria, has been awarded the Arts and Culture Award, presented by Nkepile Mabuse of CNN International on behalf of Zain Group at this year’s CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2009 Awards ceremony.

Tolu, who is a contributing editor for Glide Magazine, Nigeria, won for his story, ‘What the Truck?’, which was chosen from among 836 entries from 38 nations across the African continent. 

The Awards, which rotate location each year in tribute to their pan-African credentials, returned to South Africa in 2009 and were held at a Gala ceremony hosted by CNN and MultiChoice at The International Convention Centre, Durban this evening, Saturday 18th July.

Member of the judging panel, Ferial Haafajee, Editor-in-Chief, City Press, South Africa, said: “Always a delight to read, watch and listen to, this year’s arts and culture section was particularly competitive, said the judges. Ultimately, street art won as Tolu Ogunlesi writing in Glide magazine curated a moving exhibition. Nigeria’s Molues, Danfoes and Gwongoro’s are decorated by motor display artists. He found the art in the commonplace. The trucks, buses and taxis are decorated in a riot of colour, picture and inspirational message. Among them: no condition is permanent as well as a set of religious messages. “They symbolised,” said Tolu, “…the harshness of daily existence and the stubborn hope…that makes present harshness bearable.”  

Tony Maddox, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director of CNN International, said: “Tonight’s journalists join an ever-increasing number of professionals recognised by their peers over the last fourteen years. They have become part of a community of excellence, representing the very best in African journalism and maintaining the highest standards of journalistic integrity.”

Eben Greyling, President MultiChoice Africa, said: “MultiChoice’s partnership in these awards reflects our deep commitment to promoting and developing media skills and talent in Africa. We are delighted that every year these awards keep getting bigger and more competitive which signals the growing influence of the awards as the premier event in Africa’s media calendar. We congratulate the winners and all the finalists and honour their hard work and dedication while celebrating with them the telling of the African story.”

The CNN MultiChoice competition is now in its fourteenth year. Durban-based accommodation is provided by Southern Sun Elangeni. Other prestigious sponsors include: British Airways; Coca-Cola Africa; Ecobank, IPP Media, Tanzania; Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD); Safebond Africa Ltd; South African Tourism; Zain; Global Media Alliance; and A24 Media.

More Opportunities Than Ever Before to Watch the African Journalist Awards:

Viewers across the continent and across the world will this year be presented by more ways than ever before in the history of the African Journalist Awards:

  • The Highlights’ Programme of the Awards ceremony will be broadcast as follows:

     M-Net will broadcast the ‘Highlights Programme’ of the Award Ceremony:

     M-Net Domestic (IS7)            29th July at 2305 CAT

     M-Net EAST (W4 & IS10)     1st August at 2100 CAT

     M-Net WEST (W4 & IS10)      1st August at 2200 CAT

     AFRICA MAGIC (7)                22nd August at 1930 CAT  

  • Broadcasters in 44 countries on the African continent will be transmitting the ‘Highlights Programme’ during August and September.
  • Internationally, the ‘Highlights Programme’ will be shown on OBE TV in the UK, The Africa Channel in the United States and on RTP Africa.
  • CNN International’s longest-running feature programme, ‘Inside Africa’ will report on the Awards on Saturday 25th July at 1830 CAT.
  • For the first time ever, in its new feature programme ‘BackStory’, CNN International will provide viewers with a unique, behind-the-scenes insight into how the awards and competition are put together, which airs on Monday 20th July at 2300 CAT.
  • The Highlights Programme will be screened on Live.

The overall CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2009 wins a substantial cash prize, a visit to CNN Centre in Atlanta, to attend the three week CNN Journalism Fellowship, along with the prize awarded to all category winners, which consists of a laptop computer, printer and a cash prize.

About the award:

The CNN African Journalist of the Year Award was founded in 1995 by Edward Boateng (formerly African Regional Director for Turner Broadcasting System Inc., CNN’s parent company) and the late Mohamed Amin, to recognise and encourage excellence in journalism throughout Africa. 

2009 Judging Panel

The independent judging panel, chaired by Azubuike Ishiekwene, Executive Director, Punch Nigeria Limited, includes: Ferial Haffajee, Editor-in-Chief, City Press, South Africa; Joel Kibazo, journalist and media consultant; Arlindo Lopes, Secretary General of SABA – Southern African Broadcasting Association; Kim Norgaard, CNN’s Johannesburg Bureau Chief; Anna Umbima, journalist and broadcaster. Filipe Correia de Sá, Senior Producer at BBC World Service and Jean-Paul Gérouard, Deputy Editor-in-Chief at France 3 were brought in to help judge the Portuguese and French language categories.

Turner Broadcasting Corporate Social Responsibility:

In early 2009, twenty Turner staff fundraised $50,000 to build a school in Mali, which featured on CNN’s ‘BackStory’ programme and CNN Traveller magazine. The company donated funds to the project and several million dollars worth of airtime to Plan International, the NGO behind the scheme as well as funding the trip for the volunteers who helped build the school. Over the last three years the company and its staff have also provided houses in South Africa with Habitat for Humanity and schooling, food, drugs and transport for children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Kenya with UNICEF. Using their paid volunteer time staff have also created advertisements and logos for African charities and CNN has donated airtime.  The company is now planning to build a school in Rwanda in 2010.

MultiChoice South Africa Corporate Social Responsibility:

MultiChoice South Africa’s Corporate Social Investment strategy is underpinned by the need to make a sustainable and lasting impact in the communities in which it operates.  Our focus areas include: media development, education and the orphaned and vulnerable children. Through direct technology investments and support, the company enables individuals and communities to help themselves.  It is about promoting independence and not dependence. The company also supports local communities, through encouraging employees to contribute their time and skills towards charity organisations and/or causes that they are most passionate about. The programme makes provision for team participation initiatives which go hand in hand with grants given to employees to implement their activities.



I have just been named as one of the 25 finalists (from 12 countries) for the 2009 CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards. The shortlisting is for my article on Molue paintings (Molues are Lagos’ iconic ‘mammy wagons’), published in Glide Magazine, the in-flight magazine of Virgin Nigeria.

The full list of 2009 finalists:

Ayodeji Adeyemi, TELL Magazine, Nigeria
Biaou Daniel Valérien Adje, ORTB – Parakou, Benin
Anas Aremeyaw Anas, The Crusading Guide, Ghana
Rajen Bablee, Samedi Plus, Mauritius
Ernesto Bartolomeu, TPA, Angola
Nicola De Chaud, Backyard Productions for Carte Blanche, South Africa
Ethar El-Katatney, Business Today Egypt
Hazel Friedman, Special Assignment, SABC, South Africa
Halden Krog, The Times, South Africa
Anna-Maria Lombard, Health-e News Service for 3rd Degree, South Africa
Paul McNally, Men’s Health Magazine, South Africa
James Moturi Mogaka, KTN, Kenya
Fredrick Mugira, Freelance for Mail & Guardian online, Uganda
Sammy Muraya, Metro FM, Kenya
Boniface Mwangi, Expression Today, Kenya
John Benson Mwangi, KTN, Kenya
John-Allan Namu, KTN, Kenya
Elshadai Negash, Freelance for Fortune Newspaper, Ethiopia
Luís Nhachote, Zambeze, Mozambique
TOLU OGUNLESI, Contributing Editor for Glide Magazine, Nigeria
Violet Otindo, K24 Television, Kenya
Odette Schwegler, Backyard Productions for Carte Blanche, South Africa
Viviane Tiendrébéogo, Radiodiffusion Télévision du Burkina Faso
Beauregard Tromp, The Star, South Africa
Alain Zongo, L’Observateur Paalga, Burkina Faso

The winners will be announced in July 2009