" ITREALMS: AMI study says ‘Africans know little about their continent’ – ITREALMS Online

Sunday, July 22, 2018

AMI study says ‘Africans know little about their continent’ – ITREALMS Online

The latest report released at the weekend by the AfricanMedia Initiative (AMI) suggested that there is very little cross-border reporting by African media, resulting in limited knowledge of the continent by Africans, reports ITRealms.

The “Reporting Africa” study made available to ITRealms, points out that most of the news about Africa comes from sources external to the continent and that these ultimately determine what has been referred to as “the Africa narrative.”

The report underscored the fact that global media organizations constitute a powerful vehicle for not only shaping the global agenda but also for framing the lens through which Africa is perceived by Africans and the world.

Also, the research sought to figure out what currently prevails and if there are any compelling dialogues that are reported and can collectively define the Africa story. It was informed by empirical data gleaned from published reports from across the region and responses provided by editors to a range of questions from AMI.

“We wanted to figure out how Africa is covered by media on the continent and the factors that determine such coverage,” said AMI Chief Executive Officer Roukaya Kasenally in a pre-launch statement. “We were concerned,” she pointed out, “with questions about how media in Africa contribute to the creation of a common understanding of the continent’s realities beyond narratives based on preconceived ideas and stereotypes.”

The study sought to deepen overall understanding of the elements that drive media coverage within and beyond national borders, informs editorial choices, and shapes local and regional perceptions of the continent.

It brought out the fact that low investments in media and limited professional capacity in many countries had resulted in persistent dependence on foreign news sources, giving rise to a limited focus in African newspapers on stories that enrich the African agenda and emphasize shared experiences.

It emerged from the study that media leaders believe that readers and audiences prefer interesting stories which, in the African context, means, in the words of one of the respondents, “intriguing tales of failure and defeat against the forces of nature”.

“If we are going to reimagine Africa’s image and change the narrative,” concluded the reports co-author, Eric Chinje, “we would have to figure out innovative ways of significantly increasing investments in media and use technology to source content from counterpart media across borders in Africa. There must be a genuine home-grown effort to define and shape the narrative in ways that reflect the diversity of voices and images of a continent on the move.”

Wondering if current coverage of Africa is informed by 21st century realities or pre-conceived ideas from another era, co-author Wangethi Mwangi emphasized the need for more credible and contextualized reporting by both regional and global news correspondents. He noted that “continued reliance on foreign news agencies will ensure that the persistence of poor leadership in a handful of countries will continue to provide a rich pool from which to source negative reports that define the entire continent”.

African media is primarily national in outlook and focus, with rarely more than a page or two in national dailies devoted to news about other countries in the region.

An important gathering of heads of state and government took place during the period under study. None of the issues on the agenda of the meeting received continent-wide coverage or in any significant group of countries. Indeed, the media was not a reliable source of information or knowledge about the African Union – the pan-African institution that hosted the event.

Chuks Egbune/GEe

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