Zain Africa Challenge

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Zain Africa Challenge, which was formerly known as the Celtel Africa Challenge or CAC, is a television show perhaps best described as the bastard child of Jeopardy! and quizbowl. Produced by Richard Reid TV, it currently airs in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, and Zambia. After placing highly in their respective national Qualifying Tournaments, sixteen teams from those countries advance to the International Championship Festival and Competition, a single-elimination tournament. The tournament is broadcast, one game a week, over fifteen weeks. In 2009 it expanded into other African countries.


Each team consists of three players, one alternate, and two members of the faculty or staff who serve as liaison and coach. The theoretical maximum score for a team is 1940 (1580 in Qualifying Tournaments). The game is played in a rather unorthodox four-quarter format. The first three rounds, called Face-Off Rounds, are identical, and each consist of four ten-point "Face-Off" (tossup) questions from one of four Jeopardy-like categories (e.g. World Politics, Numbers, or Animal Anagrams) and twenty-point related bonuses, which can be single-part or multi-part. Answering a Face-Off question correctly earns ten points, a bonus worth a maximum of twenty points, and the right to choose the category of the next Face-Off question. The maximum number of possible points in each Face-Off Round is 480 (360 in Qualifying Tournaments).

The Face-Off Rounds contain several deviations from "standard" tossup-bonus format as played in North America. Perhaps the most striking difference is that only one player for each team can compete to answer the Face-Off questions (the entire team does still confer on bonuses). Each of the three players can only answer Face-Off questions in one round. In addition, players must wait for the end of the question before buzzing in, and there are no negs.

The fourth quarter is a standard sixty-second round, known as the Ultimate Challenge. The team behind at the end of the third quarter chooses from one of either three or four categories, and answers as many of the ten questions as possible in sixty seconds. Each correct answer is worth fifty points. The team ahead at the end of the third quarter then chooses from the remaining categories, and the process is repeated, even if it would not make any difference in the final outcome.

Player Eligibility

In order for players to participate, they must be full-time students at their university. First, they must take a forty-five minute test. Between twelve and twenty of the highest-scoring students then advance to join the university's CAC Scholars Club and must participate in practice games in order to be selected for the four-person CAC Scholars Team. Interestingly, faculty coaches are instructed that the "composition of the Celtel Africa Challenge Scholars Team should reflect the diversity and history of the institution," in lieu of more standard ways of picking the team like picking the four best players or a group of good players that play well together.

Players are limited to one year of Celtel Africa Challenge participation. It is unknown whether this includes students who take the test but are not selected to join the Scholars Club, students who participate in practice games but are not selected for their university's team, students who participate in their national Qualifying Tournament but do not advance, or students who are selected as alternates but do not see any playing time.


Each participant at a Qualifying Tournament receives a t-shirt and a certificate of completion.

Each team that qualifies for the Championship Festival receives $5,000 worth of educational materials and supplies courtesy of Celtel, and each participant (three players, alternative, coach, and liaison) receives $500.

Each quarterfinalist team receives $10,000 worth of educational materials and supplies, and each participant receives $1000.

Each semifinalist team receives $15,000 worth of educational materials and supplies, and each participant receives $1000 plus $500 worth of educational materials and supplies.

The runner-up team receives $25,000 worth of educational materials and supplies, and each participant receives $1000 plus $1500 worth of educational materials and supplies.

The champion receives $50,000 worth of educational materials and supplies, and each participant receives $1000 plus $4000 worth of educational materials and supplies.

Question Quality

Since the Face-Off questions cannot be answered until the end of the question, no discernible attempt is made to include pyramidality. Several tossups and bonuses, as well as some entire Ultimate Challenge categories, are multiple-choice.

Notable Questionable Rules

Acceptable Answers, Rule 3: Titles or names in the original language are acceptable only if such are commonly used in English.

  • Therefore, a player who has read a book in its original language, recognizes characters from that book, and excitedly buzzes in with the title in the original language, is penalized for that knowledge.

Acceptable Answers, Rule 11: ...A presenter may only prompt once per question...

  • Again, this penalizes a player for having concrete (if incomplete) knowledge. In theory, a player could buzz with "Bach" on a Johann Christian Bach question, be prompted, respond with "J. Bach", and be counted incorrect.

Sample Questions

Sample Face-Off: In what island prison off the coast of Capetown did Nelson Mandela spent 18 years? (Ans. _Robben_ Island)

Sample multiple choice Face-Off: BOER WAR - CRIMEAN WAR - WORLD WAR 1 Which was the first war of the 20th century? (Ans. _Boer_ War)

Sample one-part bonus: What British author born in America, created the poetic characters J. Alfred Prufrock and Macavity the Mystery Cat? (Ans. T.S. _Eliot_)

Sample multi-part bonus: Helium's symbol is He. What two elements have symbols spelling out the sentence "I Am"? (Ans. _Iodine_ and _Americium_)

Sample true-false bonus: Identify the following statements about Antarctica as True or False; Antarctica is the: 1. Coldest continent? 2. Smallest continent? 3. Windiest continent? (Ans. _True_, _False_, _True_)

External Links

Official Website