Research: How African media covers Africa

Media is important in defining narratives and informing what the world believes about Africa, and what African believes about itself.

One-third of all African stories in news outlets on the continent are sourced from foreign news services. As a result, stories about Africa continue to be told through the same persistent and negative stereotypes and frames of poverty, disease, conflict, poor leadership and corruption.

To understand how the media in Africa covers Africa, we surveyed 38 African editors and analyzed content from 60 African news outlets in15 countries (Botswana, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, DRC, Egypt, Tunisia, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal) between September and October 2020. 

In addition, four facilitated focus groups were held with 25 editors of African media, editors of Pan African outlets and international correspondents. The results confirm challenges and experiences that are common knowledge within the industry: advertising revenue and newsrooms are shrinking, influencing the kind of news that Africans read and that news is largely negative and conflict-filled.

Key findings from the report show that the sources for news gathering on African countries are problematic, the resulting content continues to feed old stereotypes, and often the quality of local journalism doesn't allow for nuanced and contextualized storytelling that is critical for telling stories about the 54 countries in Africa. We also found that:

· 63% of outlets surveyed don’t have correspondents in other countries in Africa

· 1/3 of all coverage on Africa was from non-African sources, with AFP and BBC accounting for ¼ of all stories found in African outlets about other African countries. African news agencies contributed minimally.

· 81% of the stories analyzed were classified as “hard news” e.g. conflicts and crises driven by events – they were also largely political in nature

· 13% of the news focused specifically on political violence, civil unrest, armed conflict

·South Africa, followed by Egypt were the countries with the most diverse coverage that was not necessarily linked to newsy events meaning that those two countries are probably the ‘best known’ on the continent.