After Covid-19 created havoc in 2020 and 2021, businesses in Uganda collapsed and individuals lost homes to creditors as the effects of Covid-19 and associated lockdowns spiked rising loan defaults, leading to properties advertised for auction in the first half of the year  doubling numbers of similar pre-pandemic period.
After observing a pattern of what looked like increasing number of properties being put up for sale to recover loans, the Daily Monitor [Newspaper] team coded and analysed foreclosure notices in the Daily Monitor for January-June 2022 and compared it with data for similar pre-Covid data (January – June 2019).
The process of crafting the story involved analysing and sorting data in the foreclosure notices in the Daily Monitor Newspaper for January-June 2022 and compared it with data for similar pre-Covid data (January – June 2019).
Doing this took a period of six months as we had to carefully capture all the nitty-gritty details of the auctions.
Some of the discoveries [while doing the story] were interesting. For instance, we discovered that the 2022 statistics translated to 346 properties being placed for sale a month, or 12 of them a day, that year. The imminent forfeitures, based on our analysis, showed individual borrowers losing big and small assets, among them family homes, usually an acquisition using life-time savings.
This was a cry for help after some of the borrowers shared heart-breaking stories on how the cost of living crisis brought about by the Covid-19 adverse effects had pushed them to the wall to have their properties auctioned so that they could make ends meet.
Some of the borrowers had even spoken of mental distress including slipping into depression as a result of this setback.
As a result, we decided to do a follow-up story from psychologists and banks to advise borrowers on how to deal with loan stress. A number of readers afterwards reached out to Daily Monitor applauding us for writing the stories and since then, the number of foreclosure notices in the Daily Monitor for properties being auctioned has greatly reduced.
We worked with Microsoft Excel spreadsheets to analyse and decode the data for simplicity. These spreadsheets helps us easily organize and re-arrange the data fast.
Afterwards, we incorporated the findings from the Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, into bar line graphs so as to get capture the trend of the auctions.
Context about the project:
At some point, while analysing and decoding the data, we [the team doing the story] we got stuck after failing to draw appropiate bar line graphs from auctions. We kept messing up from time to time, and having to re-do the work again. And for this reason, we had source the services of a statistician who guided us on what to do especially on how to illustrate the information better on a bar and line graph.
What can other journalists learn from this project?
It is possible to do a data journalism story. I remember at first when my colleague and I were assigned to do this story on how auctions had doubled after Covid-19, we were skeptical and once we had started, we dragged our feet and even abandoned writing the project at some point.
Regardless of how we were feeling, the Editor stood his foot and said he wanted the story done.
Once it was done and published and we received postive feedback from the readers, we then believed that it is actually possible to do a data journalism story.
Data journalism stories seem complicated but they are doable and experience has taught us that.