The chances of meeting a medical graduate practising journalism are usually very slim, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. But two Tanzanian physicians have broken away from that norm by inventing a start-up called Afyatoon. It uses visual art technology to tell compelling medical stories. They narrate to the EAST Site their experience and share their vision for the future.

At only 27 years, Edwin Ngula Luguku, is the CEO and founder of Afyatoon. Glory Charles Mlagwa, his counterpart, a lab technician and project manager, is even younger at 23.

But age doesn’t seem to be an obstacle for these two, who are part of the current Innovators-in-Residence (IiR) cohort, courtesy of the Media Innovation Centre (MIC).

Afya means health in Kiswahili, and toon is short for cartoon. As the name suggests, Afyatoon is a health-oriented organisation that uses animation to tell health stories on digital platforms such as YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram.

The two young innovators seek to carve a unique niche in Tanzania’s media industry. Of course, there are perils along the way, but the pair is young, exuberant, intelligent and eager to explore.

Humble beginnings

Intriguingly, their desire to tell medical stories was birthed while studying medicine-related campus courses.

Four professionals – all medics – and seven consultants also trained in medicine now make up Afyatoon.

At only 27 years, Edwin Ngula Luguku, is the CEO and founder of Afyatoon

“I’m an intern doctor in Dar es Salaam, but this initiative – telling medical stories through animation – began in 2018 through a project called Amka Kijana,” Edwin recounts. “We were trying to create content on HIV/Aids prevalence in Tanzania to create awareness, particularly for the youth,” he explains.

Amka Kijana would later morph into Afyatoon.

“From the little survey we did, we realised the problem lay in how the messages – about HIV/Aids – were being delivered,” Edwin further explains.

“We set out to make this (story-telling) educational and entertaining.” They did this by, for instance, looking at modalities; when talking about a specific parameter in HIV. “We also explored mental health and non-communicable diseases. So, from Amka Kijana, we formed Afyatoon.”

Partnering with health centres

Edwin says that as much as they are medics trying to explore journalism, the unique value proposition in their project hasn’t changed. They use animations, 3Ds and motion graphics to tell their impactful health stories.

Afyatoon has partnered with some hospitals to have their content relayed on screens in waiting areas of such facilities to reach a wider audience.

“We are utilising hospital waiting areas – where patients stay as they wait to see doctors. If it’s a cardiac-based hospital, we relay cardiac-based content. We’re innovating on modalities and tools used to give education,” Edwin says.

According to him, the response has been ‘satisfactory’, based on the content they are producing.

“We once did an online project on mental health called ‘Hold-My-Hand’, and we had a very high audience engagement,” Edwin proudly expounds, adding that the youth were particularly keen on being co-opted as content co-creators.

“We’ve also analysed audience perception of our content, which got high reviews and strong video preference, particularly comic videos,” he explains.

Learning curve 

While acknowledging that they still have a long way to go, Edwin is optimistic that fine-tuning their start-up at the Innovators-in-Residence will make them better storytellers, content creators and even managers.

“This – innovators-in-residence – is new to us. Likewise, the concept of human-centred design is also new to us, but we need it if we are to attain sustainability.”

He said the IiR experience had exposed them to so many new things and that they were grateful for the tremendous support from coaches, trainers and community managers.

The duo is optimistic that the experience gathered will make them more skilled in project management as a media outlet.

At the MIC, they’ve also learnt other essential aspects of story-telling, including fact-checking. Edwin picks out two things that are already standing out as must-dos; experience learning about projects as a media outlet and working with other media innovators on fact-checking.

The pursuit of Media Viability

Edwin’s partner in the project, Glory, notes that she, too, is looking to gain journalistic skills from the IiR programme.

“In any project, we wish for two things: Attaining sustainability (media viability) through a media-based business model through Lean Canvas,” Edwin says. “And to see that the work here comes to reality,” he added, reckoning that this work is getting them into spaces they’d never imagined.

Edwin’s partner in the project, Glory, notes that she, too, is looking to gain journalistic skills from the IiR programme.

“All along, we’ve been doing this, not from a journalist’s point of view, but now we have the human-centred design, so we’re looking at the sustainability of the project into a health-based media – a major media house in Tanzania that deals with health content,” Glory says.

However, the Afyatoon duo notes that conceptualising and making their content commercially attractive remains their biggest challenge, a steep hill they hope to surmount soon.

The other major challenge, Edwin admits, is customer appreciation. They are not sure what kind of customers will pay for their content. To help overcome this challenge, they have lots of discussions with their coaches.

“Our users cannot be the ones to pay for production and dissemination. So the question about the best business approach, acquiring new skills, and time management is of the essence,” Edwin concludes.

About the Author

Author ProfileIsaac Swila
The author is a Kenyan journalist. He's passionate about Politics and Governance, Digital story-telling, Sports and Human Interest.

Similar articles

Enact policies that guarantee education for all

As Form One students settle into a new life in secondary school, this has also been a period of reflection. We have read tear-jerking and heart-warming stories of determined students who overcame many odds to get an education and how well-wishers came together in their aid.

RSF 2022 Press Freedom Index: A mixed bag for East Africa

Uganda fell behind, whereas Kenya improved its press freedom ranking in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 Press Freedom Index. And after years of media freedom decline, Tanzania appears to be on the right track. But overall, media freedom activists say there is still work to be done.

Good journalism does not come cheap

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democracy and the foundation of economic success, mostly because through our free press, we’re able to hold the leadership to account.

Opinion: Rethinking media houses revenue streams in the Digital era

To align with the changing times and stay relevant in the business, media houses are challenged to rethink their strategy and to adopt and understand obstacles and challenges they face towards rethinking and exploring alternative sources of revenue and on developing the digital strategy.

Hamasa Media Group: Tanzanian innovators with a solution to organisation management

A team of young, Tanzanian tech-savvy communication professionals is dreaming big. It seeks to usher a new dawn in media business management in Tanzania by optimising employee output and offering consultancy to media businesses on how they can operate with a minimal budget but still attain their goals.

The legal challenges facing East Africa’s bloggers and influencers 

Bloggers and influencers have become an integral component of information sourcing across East Africa. The public uses blogs, privately run websites and social networks to crowdsource information from social networks, which they then publish and distribute. But it’s not all rosy for this group of content makers.

Five astounding findings from the MCK state of Kenya’s Media Survey

Did you know that in 2021 Kenyans watched less TV and spent more time on social media? Or that some Kenyans rely on family, friends, or even social media icons and bloggers as a source of news and information? These are some of the conclusions highlighted in the 2021 State of the Media Survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

Uganda’s media strives to reinvent itself post Covid-19

The effects of the Covid pandemic continue to change the world in ways we had not imagined possible. The media is going through a painful transformation to keep up with changing production, distribution and consumption habits. In East Africa, Uganda’s Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) recently hosted a panel discussion on Media Viability comprising experienced journalists from Television, Radio, Print and Online/Digital media to address lessons learned from the pandemic. East Site’s Moses Mutente attended the panel and compiled this article.

Opinion: Africa must revamp journalism education to include media ownership

In this commentary, Uganda-based journalist Caleb Okereke shares deep personal insights into why media schools in East Africa must rethink their curriculum. He stresses the need for trainers to begin teaching media ownership to better equip journalism students for the dynamic and cutthroat job market by taking us through his journey as a journalism student and media owner.

Dwindling trust in media raises concerns ahead of Kenya’s General Election

For the second year running, a survey commissioned by the Media Council of Kenya shows that the trust level in Kenyan media has nosedived, raising fundamental questions on how media will play its watchdog role more so with landmark elections set for August 9. EAST Site writer Isaac Swila explores.

Opinion: Media needs credibility to survive the pandemic and digital transformation

Legacy media is currently caught between a rock and a hard place — the Covid pandemic and the rise and proliferation of social media has hit revenues hard. Some say this could signal the end of news as we used to know it. However, Ugandan decorated journalist Ernest Bazanye believes the industry will survive and thrive, but not without a fight.

Opinion: We should all be concerned about the future of media

Free media is often described as the fourth estate, the gatekeeper, the whistleblower, and many more. American singer Jim Morrison once said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” No wonder governments worldwide try hard to control the press. But the media itself, particularly in Uganda, faces a severe identity crisis that requires urgent action, writes guest commentator Jimmy Spire Ssentongo.

Invest in journalists’ verification skills to help curb disinformation, expert Redondo advises

World over, disinformation is a virus that continues to permeate newsrooms giving media managers and journalists a headache on how to deal with it. Dr. Myriam Redondo,  a newsroom trainer in digital verification and associate professor in International Relations (PhD) explains how to tackle the virus in an engagement with EAST Site writer Isaac Swila.

Opinion: Never lose sight of your vision when fundraising 

No one sits down to write proposals only to seek money. There’s an idea, a vision, an important goal, the need for impact, and last but not least, the need for change.

Media faulted over its coverage of people living with disabilities 

According to the World Health Organisation there are between 60-80million people with disabilities in Africa and over 1 billion in the world, many of whom live under deplorable conditions owing to societal myths.

How Kenyan journalists are preparing for the 2022 General Election 

Kenyan voters will go to the polls on August 7, 2022, to elect new leaders. As expected, the media is burning the midnight oil, trying to develop strategies to cover the polls. But how prepared are they?

Tanzania: Striving for women digital inclusion

Tanzania has a massive digital gender gap. As a result, it is unlikely to hear stories about successful Tanzanian women, either in leadership or the media.

Three reasons why a Human Centred Design is necessary for innovation

Ultimately, HCD is a toolbox containing multiple tools you can pick out, show your team how to use them, and ensure it becomes best practice

Meet the Tanzanian journalist passionate about the right to clean water and sanitation

Mohammed Hammie is not your typical reporter. In 2019, the young Tanzanian swapped from being a regular journalist to media for community empowerment and has since specialised in telling stories about the human right to access clean drinking water, particularly in rural areas.

Kenya’s Media Council defends move seeking journalists quit before vying for election

According to the MCK Chief Executive Officer, David Omwoyo, journalists eyeing political posts should be subjected to the same rules that apply to civil servants. That is to leave office six months to elections. But that’s not the only requirement.

AKU students media research spotlights hits and misses of Kenya’s media

The theses dwelt on thematic areas in Kenya’s media landscape, from solutions journalism, content analysis of the coverage of Covid-19 as well as data smog in the newsrooms, which  the findings show is having a devastating effect on print journalists.

Media Viability Study East Africa: Five interesting findings you should know

The study calls for solutions to structural, political, and societal conditions that jeopardize the future of media as a viable business and a source of high-quality journalism in East Africa

Covid-19: Kenyan journalists go behind the story

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has altered our lives in unimaginable ways. Economies are bleeding. It has disrupted learning; millions have lost their jobs, while many others contend with reduced salaries. Yet, amidst the chaos and disruption, journalists – also hugely affected – have remained steadfast to their cause to tell stories of the pandemic. Some of them narrated their experiences to EAST site’s writer Isaac Swila.

OPINION: Modern journalism faces an existential threat

The Covid-19 pandemic and the technological shifts have caused severe consequences to today’s press. However, Prof George Nyabuga says the writing has long been on the wall, yet many chose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

East Africa’s media powerhouses use convergence in business to stay afloat 

Ever since 170 journalists from Kenya’s Standard Group were made redundant in 2020, media experts argue that convergence of business processes in the media industry is an inevitable and necessary step. The term convergence has dominated media houses for years. But what does it mean and why is it crucial for the future of journalism in the region?

The changing face of Kenyan newsrooms – a case of Standard Media Group

The digital and social media experience has disrupted the media industry in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when media houses could solely rely on revenues generated from the sale of content, for example, newspapers. Kenya’s Standard Media Group understood the need to adapt to the ‘new digital newsroom’ and embarked on a three-year- restructuring programme, but the change is not without challenges as Peter Oduor found out

Paywall: A challenging but promising business model for Kenya’s news media 

Kenya’s leading newspapers – The Nation, Star, and The Standard, recently set up paywalls on their online content. Though some readers are complaining, the uptake has been impressive. Senior editors who spoke to EAST Site’s writer, Isaac Swila, insist the paywall is the future.

How audience participation has changed the media 

What do Kenya’s post-election violence, Sudan’s protests that toppled President Omar al-Bashir, and the Arab Spring have in common? The audience played a crucial role in informing the world where journalists were restricted in one way or the other. Today, direct audience engagement in the news cycle has brought far-reaching changes to the media industry.

MCI Uganda: Grooming journalists for the 21st century job market

The belief that journalism can make the world a better place is why the Media Challenge Initiative exists. This aspiration has become more evident during Covid-19, where journalists are at the frontlines of fighting the pandemic across the globe.

‘Future of journalism is video’: Chimpreports founder Muhame

Ten years ago, an ambitious and daring Giles Muhame started an online platform at Makerere University. The platform’s main idea was to bring news in real-time. Initially, the online platform struggled as the audience was still rigid, preferring traditional modes of news consumption such as radio, print, and television.