Lesson Plans

A Game Revealing Africa's Offshore Empires


You will be able to analyze how authors use a game to reveal the findings of an investigative report into offshore companies in order to design questions that reflect reporting into offshore companies


Today’s lesson will explore a game. What is your favorite game, and why? What is the goal of the game? Write your response and be prepared to share with the class.

The game you’re looking at has the goal of informing the public about the impacts of practices by African business that use offshore companies. Businessdictionary.com defines an offshore company as a “firm registered or incorporated outside the country where it has its main offices and operations, or where its principal investors reside.”

Why might a person or a company create an offshore company? Write a list of reasons and be prepared to share with the class. Consider, what might be possible for a person or company if they open a firm (company) in a country where they don’t conduct most of their business?

Introducing the Lesson:

Today’s lesson explores the latest developments in the vast investigative reporting project The Panama Papers. Investigative reporting projects require lengthy, in-depth research about a particular subject. Some projects take months or years to report. The Panama Papers, which was researched by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), was prompted by the leak of 11.5 million documents from Mossack Fonseca, a law firm in Panama. Today’s lesson focuses on what the documents revealed about offshore companies linked to businesses in Africa. For more about other discoveries uncovered by The Panama Papers, click here.

Before exploring the resource attached, read the following quotation from the ICIJ reporting on offshore companies in Africa and answer the questions that follow. Be prepared to discuss your responses:

More than $50 billion of foreign aid money is pumped into Africa annually. But did you know that roughly the same amount of money is illicitly siphoned out of the continent?

  1. What is foreign aid, and what role does it play in Africa?
  2. How might African countries be losing nearly $50 billion per year due to offshore companies?
  3. Why do you think ICIJ uses these two sentences to begin its project?

Introducing the Resource: “Continent of Secrets: Uncovering Africa’s Offshore Companies”

Click on the attached resource to connect to a game introducing what investigative journalists from ICIJ found out about African companies using offshore companies. Answer the comprehension questions attached as your play.

As you play the game, also consider the following:

  1. In what order does the game present information? Why do you think the authors choose this order?
  2. Notice how you feel and what you learn as you play the game. Then consider, why do you think the authors chose to create a game to present their findings?


Once you’ve finished playing the game, write your responses to the questions below. Be prepared to use your responses as part of a discussion with the class.

  1. What facts from the game most shocked you?
  2. How did you feel while playing the game? What moments were you most engaged?
  3. Why do you think the authors chose to present the findings of their investigation using a game?
  4. How might countries in Africa be impacted if the money saved by African companies using offshore accounts was redirected to those countries?
  5. How do the findings from this report connect directly to you?

Extension Activities:

1. Review this article from the ICIJ report and create 3-5 questions that you would add to the game “Continent of Secrets.” The questions can be designed in any of the styles that you saw in the game, or could use a new format. Next to each question, write a short reflection explaining why you chose to include this question in the game.

2. Create a plan for how the money that is being saved by African companies using offshore accounts could be used to address a challenge facing an African country, or a challenge facing several African countries. Use Pulitzer Center reporting to help you identify a challenge, and then conduct your own research to identify how the $50 billion lost in taxes could otherwise be spent.

Educator Notes: 

The lesson plan below guides students through the game "Continent of Secrets," which reveals what investigative journalists from the  International Consortium of Investigative Journalists uncovered about the use of offshore companies by African businesses. Students play the game and analyze how authors employ different questioning strategies to reveal the findings of their investigation.


Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.

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