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‘Good news’ about African business successes still under-reported
By our News Team | 2022
Study says the international media narrative around Africa sticks to old stereotypes, with economic ‘good news’ largely ignored.
Africa’s compelling business stories and successes are continuing to be under-reported in the international media, while stereotypes around conflict, governance, corruption and poverty dominate the narrative.
This is according to The Business in Africa Narrative Report released by Africa No Filter and AKAS. The former is a privately funded organisation that works to shift stereotypical and harmful narratives about the continent, while the latter is an international audience-strategy consultancy.
The report says the keywords, stories, frames, and narratives associated with business on the continent are dangerously distorted. There is an overemphasis on the role of governments, foreign powers and larger African states – alongside an underappreciation of the role of young people, women, entrepreneurs, creative businesses, smaller successful African states, and Africa’s future potential.
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“We wanted to understand why Africa is seen as a high-risk business destination and why the cost of money is at a premium,” explains Moky Makura, Executive Director at Africa No Filter.
“The report gives us an insight into why. It shows that business opportunities on the continent are both under-represented and misrepresented, and now that we know this, we can work on educating the media and changing the narrative around business in Africa.”
Says Richard Addy of AKAS: “This ground-breaking report offers a detailed data analysis on the narrative around business in Africa. The rigorous research is important because narratives, frames and stories are the lenses through which we perceive and experience Africa. They inform beliefs, behaviour and ultimately dictate policy.”
Distortions that played out in media stories
In addition to the dominance of foreign powers in business stories featured in international media, the report highlighted a number of distortions played out in stories and the under-representation of businesses across the continent, including:
- More negative coverage: International media are more likely to have a negative tone. African media are twice as likely to reference corruption in their coverage of business in Africa compared to international media, with corruption featuring in 10% of African media stories.
- Africa is Nigeria and South Africa: Nearly 50% of articles in global media outlets reference South Africa or Nigeria, crowding out business stars like Mauritius, Namibia, and the Seychelles. Mauritius is the highest-ranking African country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
- Silencing creativity, amplifying technology: Nollywood is the world’s second-largest film industry, and music genres like AfroBeats and AmaPiano are influencing pop culture globally, yet creative businesses were only featured in 1% of all business news articles across African and global media. Additionally, while 22% of Africa’s working-age population started new ventures between 2011 and 2016, the highest rate of any region globally, African start-ups received declined coverage.
- Youth and women are underrepresented: African countries claim the top three spots in the Mastercard Index for the highest concentration of women business owners globally, but business news and analysis on gender equality issues have declined. Africa also has the youngest population globally. However, youth and women are underrepresented in business stories. In fact, online news coverage of young people has declined between 2017 and 2021. In addition, stories about African youth globally are often framed through negative stereotypes, invoking images of inactivity, violence and crime.
- Missing Free Trade Area and investment: The African Continental Free Trade Area is the largest free trade area in the world by the number of countries taking part, yet it makes up under 1% of business news and analysis, while mentions of Foreign Direct Investment fell from 3.2% in 2017 to an even lower 1.9% of coverage in 2021.
The report also notes that academic researchers have consistently shown a correlation between media representations and investment levels. One study of the stock market in the US showed that media visibility led to more investment than under-investment and influenced investor trading behaviour. In other words, how the media covers business matters.
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