Date: August 2013
Team: Ann Pettifor, Georgia Lee, Kenneth Oliko, Jordan Chatwin
Areas of expertise: Advocacy, Design

Over the last 18 months Ai has been working with the African Union’s (AU) Campaign for the Reduction of Maternal, Newborn and Child Mortality (CARMMA). We are part of the regional remit of the UKAID funded Evidence 4 Action programme, led by Options UK. Ai was asked to advise CARMMA on their strategy to improve maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH) across the continent. As well as advising on strategy Ai works in close collaboration with the CARMMA team to improve the digital presence, public face, messaging, framing and resources of CARMMA.

The team at the AU is led by Dr Ademola Olajide, Head of the Health, Nutrition, and Population Division, and supported by Kenneth Oliko, Ai‘s African Union consultant for work on CARMMA.

In developing a strategy for the African Union Commission we recognised that for diplomatic and political reasons the AU cannot be a campaigning organisation; however it has a great convening power. We therefore strategised that the best way for it to promote the issue of MNCH survival through CARMMA was by using the AU’s convening and cross-continent power to reach a wide audience. The CARMMA scorecards (showing comparative data on MNCH indicators across the continent) is one example of its institutional capacity to reflect the progress of MNCH across AU Member States.

Our first collaborative work with the AU was the refresh of the CARMMA identity and creation of a bank of creative assets and photography for the campaign relaunch in October 2012.

With Kenyan-based design firm Asilia we developed an extensive visual identity around the prevailing logo and applied it across print and digital assets. This included designing flyers, reports, a desktop website, a mobile website, a set of bespoke iconography and scorecard infographics that show comparative data on MNCH indicators across 52 African countries.

The CARMMA site: was launched in two languages in October 2012 and was the first standalone site for the AU’s campaign. We also worked to apply the refreshed identity across social media channels.


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The Mama Afrika Award

After the successful launch and rollout of the refreshed CARMMA identity and digital presence we strategised with the AU and developed the idea that one way the AU could ‘campaign’ on MNCH was to establish an award. Such an award for maternal, newborn and child health is another example of the AU’s unique ability to mount a continent-wide competition that will highlight the achievements of individuals and organisations in reducing MNCH mortality.

Our team thought deeply about modelling this award on the Nobel Peace Prize process. In response to appeals that the award should have an African identity we undertook research into figures and institutions that would have a continent-wide appeal.

The concept of the laureate was developed, and then submitted to a process of consultation at an AU conference that brought together MNCH experts from across Africa. After discussion and iteration the group agreed the concept note for the award with the feedback that the name ‘Laureate’ was not sufficiently African-owned.

We were asked to propose a name for the award. We looked at the possibility of naming the award after a prominent, current African politician or statesperson, MNH activists and professionals, or after iconic African women.

We finally identified Miriam Makeba, the musician, who was a citizen of 10 African countries and whose only daughter, Bongi Makeba, died of causes related to pregnancy. Furthermore, Miriam Makeba was the only performer to be invited by the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to perform in Addis Ababa at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity in 1962. Finally, Ms Makeba is known across Africa as ‘Mama Afrika’.

The Mama Afrika Award was our proposed name, subsequently agreed by the African Union Commission (AUC).


The Mama Afrika Award
Identity Design

When we began the design of the Mama Afrika Award identity our brief was firstly that the identity and aesthetic must be African – not owned by one country, but truly a continent-wide brand.

Within that brief the three themes that the Mama Afrika identity had to express:

  • Maternal and newborn survival.
  • Strength, resilience, pride and power
  • Achievement, celebration, positivity.

We started looking at traditional symbols of maternity from across the continent, motherhood and fertility, including, for example, Asante dolls from Ghana.

For strength we focussed on female leaders who have played an important part in Africa’s history and their identity. Specifically we considered Albertina Sisulu, Wangari Maathai and Miriam Makeba.

For celebration we looked at contemporary African designers, graphic artists and modern interpretations of traditional textiles.

Finally, drawing on all these sources, we designed the Mama Afrika Award identity.

Using the sillouhette of the mother and baby communicates all aspects of maternal and newborn survival. We used the 54 stars of the AU to show the Mama Afrika Award was connected to the AU. It was used in starburst effect to emphasise the celebratory element of the Award.

Finally, and crucially, the mother and baby were placed within an outline of the African continent. Together, the whole logo serves as a literal translation of Mama Afrika.

The Mama Afrika Award was launched at the African Union’s first International Conference on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, in Africa held in Johannesburg, South Africa from the 1st to 3rd August, 2013.

Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AU, unveiled the Mama Afrika Award to the uplifting soundtrack of Miriam Makeba’s music:

“Individuals, organisations, communities, companies and governments who continue to make a remarkable effort to ensure that Africa’s mothers, newborns and children survive, and not only survive but thrive and realize their potential”

Dr. Zuma made a dramatic gesture and symbolically unveiled the Mama Afrika Award.

The Chairperson was joined by Miriam Makeba’s grandson Nelson Lumumba Lee who spoke eloquently about his grandmother’s commitment to the wellbeing of Africa’s mothers and children, he described the Makeba family and foundation as “honoured and humbled” by the Mama Afrika Award.

Nominations are open on the CARMMA site and work on the Mama Afrika Award continues.

Miriam Makeba Miriam Makeba, musician, is known across the continent as Mama Afrika. Ms. Makeba was the only artist to be invited by the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to perform in Addis Ababa at the inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity in 1962.

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