Well Told Story, Kenya

Well Told Story, Kenya

Since 2014 Africa’s Voices has been working with Emmy-award winning Well Told Story. We’ve been analysing the thousands of messages they receive – mostly in Swahili and Sheng – sent by fans of their multi-media platform, Shujaaz. 

Shujaaz engages young Kenyans on a range of issues that matter to them, through free monthly comics, radio shows, and social media platforms. Fans participate in dynamic conversations that are sparked and curated by Well Told Story, but often led by the audience themselves. Messages are sent in their thousands via SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook – creating a rich but messy dataset. The 5-minute video below introduces Shujaaz and its central character – DJ Boyie.

Valuable Insights & evidence

Our collaborative partnership with Well Told Story aims to make sense of the vast audience data through tools that include sentiment analysis, lexicon creation, and audience segmentation. Our insights inform the delivery of Shujaaz media and measure its impact on the mindsets of young Kenyans. This evidence is valuable for Well Told Story’s donors, which include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK’s Department of International Development. So far, we have delivered insights into audience conversations on diverse topics, including reproductive health (see below), religious intolerance, and entrepreneurship (hustling). Read Well Told Story’s blog post on our collaboration.

In addition, by having dedicated Africa’s Voices researchers working alongside the Well Told Story team in Nairobi, we’ve helped to build their capacity around designing research, discovering data insights, and data visualisation.


Example audience insights:

  • Use of sheng (a popular slang, peer-group vocabulary) and formal (adult-world vocabulary) changed over time, with changes linked to when comics were released.
  • Males and females use sheng differently.
  • Conversations in sheng sustain over time, while conversations in adult-world language do not.

By tracking the discussion overtime, we found that conversations in slang were more vibrant and deeper than the formal-language conversations about, for example, pills and family planning.

From our collaboration, Well Told Story gained insights that supported a shift in their communications strategy. More slang terms were incorporated into their comics and social media, which resonated with their audience. This in turn boosted engagement in the slang conversation from October 2014  – as the bubble graph illustrates. See the interactive dashboards we created, revealing demographics, on our methods page.