Experts say this is how Africa can take ownership of its business narratives
Johannesburg, 28 March 2022 - “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will glorify the hunter. The same can be said about the media, ‘until the lions have their own journalists the news coverage of the hunt will glorify the hunter,” said Yasmin Kumi, award-winning entrepreneur and founder and CEO of Africa Foresight Group.
Kumi was one of the panelists at the Africa No Filter Presents: Another Scramble for Africa? Unpacking narratives on Business in Africa webinar. The webinar unpacked findings from The Business in Africa Narrative Report. Kumi was joined by Bogolo Kenewendo, the historic former Minister of Investment, Trade and Industry in Botswana turned global economist and investment expert, and Richard Addy, the report author and co-founder of award-winning consultancy, AKAS. ANF’s Research and Media Program lead, Natasha Kimani, moderated the conversation.
Kumi said the “fundamental problem” with the business story of Africa lies in who is telling it. “A lot of news coverage consumed by Africans is mostly international media instead of our own media. Where are pan-African business platforms where we can tell our own stories?”
Kumi added if the lion has its own journalists, the most common stories of business in Africa would be nuanced, diverse and reflect the continent’s progress, innovation and growth. The business narrative would be led by stories of economic diversity around Africa. More countries would be reported on besides Nigeria and South Africa, which featured in 50’% of the continent’s business coverage; there would be more stories that show the impact of women, youth and entrepreneurs and creative industries like arts, fashion, film and music would also be big business news.
Instead, stories also center on foreign powers like the USA and China, while voices of the youth, women and entrepreneurs barely feature. Addy added that with 70% of the stories in international outlets mentioning foreign powers, Africa continues to be cast as a pawn whose fate lies in the hands of foreign powers.
“We're worried that this situation is going to become even more entrenched, and there’s a real danger that the foreign power scramble for Africa can dominate the business (stories) essentially in the next year,” he said.
Moreover, Africa as a business and investment destination is told primarily through South Africa and Nigeria, which are featured in 50% of business stories, while the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was reported in under 1% of business news and analysis.
Kenewendo said missing and underreported stories fall short of one of the most basic functions of media: educating people on bread-and-butter issues. Take the AfCFTA’s coverage on 23 March and the week that marked four years since it was signed. The AfCFTA was covered in 20 articles, while more than 160,000 were written in the same period about business news in Africa.
Kenewendo, Addy and Kumi had a robust conversation about why it matters that the AfCFTA is missing, noting the impact that ranges from citizens and business owners who are uneducated about how they can benefit. It has also created the perception that the AfCFTA is a private agreement between governments and that ordinary people cannot shape it.
But as Kenewendo said, various countries have been hosting workshops to educate citizens. In other countries, governments have partnered with agencies to host training workshops to get women SMMEs aware of the agreement’s benefits. It didn't start with the same vigor that was expected because of Covid-19.
“It does not explain why the Agreement doesn’t have prominence in the media,” Kenewendo said, with Addy adding that The Business in Africa Narrative Report doesn’t call for positive coverage, or even more stories that continue to overemphasize the role of government.
“It’s about asking yourself if you are telling the same stories, you have always told? Who are the protagonists in the story? If you want to stand out as a storyteller, tell different stories that reflect the various dimensions, make your storytelling rich and new rather than repeating patterns of the old,” he said.
Kumi added that journalists can take it a step further from business news as usual and focus on opportunities created by businesses in Africa and by African entrepreneurs globally. “Anchors must be on the ground looking for these stories and report on what’s happening,” she said.
The discussion on the business narratives about Africa - along with The Business in Africa Narrative Report - is part of Africa No Filter’s mission of shifting stereotypical narratives of Africa including by educating the media as storytellers to millions, they have the power to shape public perceptions and inform narratives – good and bad – about the investment landscape and opportunities in Africa.You can watch the webinar above or here.
Download the report here.
Join the discussion on social media and tell us how you want to challenge the narrative via #RewriteAfricasStory and #TakeBackThePen.
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