The 'CNN African Journalist of the Year Competition' was established in August 1995 to encourage, promote and recognise excellence in African journalism. In the early nineties Edward Boateng, then Regional Director of Turner Broadcasting (CNN's parent company), was travelling around the African continent on business. During his travels he became concerned about the lack of respect journalists received and he decided to try and help them gain recognition for their hard work and commitment.
Working with Edward to launch the first competition were Gary Streiker, then CNN Nairobi Bureau Chief, the late esteemed photographer Mohamed Amin and the late Esom Alintah, then Secretary General of the African Business Roundtable.
The first Awards Ceremony took place in Ghana on August 11, 1995. There were six winners that year from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. No Awards Ceremony was held in 1996 due to the death of Mohamed Amin.
The second ceremony was held in Johannesburg in March 1997. There were 10 winners from 7 countries.
In 1998 SABC became a partner in the competition, which was expanded to introduce specific categories. 9 winners were selected and came from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
The following year, 1999, there were 10 finalists from Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria and South Africa.
The fifth 'CNN African Journalist of the Year Competition' garnered a considerable increase in the number of entries - with a total of 1159 entries received. There were 12 winners, 6 in the print category, 5 in television and 1 in radio. They came from Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The Free Press Africa Award was introduced that year. The category was established to recognise journalistic courage and integrity and reward a body of work enhancing the cause of media freedom. This Award went to Brian Hungwe working in Zimbabwe and Sorious Samura who covered the fighting in Sierra Leone.
In 2001, the 'CNN African Journalist of the Year Competition' received 1,954 entries. The number of categories increased to twelve, with the introduction of an Arts & Culture Award.
In 2002, the competition was open to Francophone Africa for the first time, prompting entries from even more African nations (26 in all) and finalists came from 8 different countries.
The 2003 CNN African Journalist of the Year competition saw the addition of the Tourism Award. The competition received entries from 32 countries.
2004 saw the expansion of the Francophone category to include two awards, namely The General News Awards in Print/Photographic and Electronic Media (TV/Radio.)
2005 celebrated the 10th anniversary of the competition, renamed the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Awards, recognising the new partnership with MultiChoice. A Portuguese speaking category was also launched that year. 2005's ceremony was hosted in Nairobi, Kenya.
In 2006, the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Award moved to Maputo, Mozambique. The competition again garnered record numbers, with over 1530 entries from across 43 countries. A new category was added, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation Award for HIV/AIDS Journalism. In 2006, the Finalists' Programme consisted of a two day media forum focusing on journalistic issues on the continent, culminating in the Awards Ceremony highlighting excellence in African journalism. President Armando Guebuza of Mozambique attended the ceremony and made a keynote speech as well as presenting the overall award to the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2006.
In 2007, the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist Award was held in Cape Town, South Africa. The competition, in its 12th year, received an even higher number of entries than the previous year, 1670 from 40 countries across the continent including French and Portuguese speaking Africa. The Finalists' Programme included a Media Forum attended by journalists from across the continent and an interactive panel discussion on issues such as 'HIV/AIDS: Beyond the Public Debate - Human Rights, Gender Equity and Good Governance'.
In 2008, the awards celebrated their thirteenth year and were held in Accra, Ghana. The competition received 1912 entries from a record 44 countries throughout the continent, including French and Portuguese speaking Africa.
2009 awards was the fourteenth year of the awards which were held in Durban, South Africa. The competition attracted 1665 entries from 38 nations across the African continent.