A Continental Voice: America’s Media Industry Is in Trouble. It Is Time for Africa To Address Its Media Problem

After visiting a few New York based media outlets as an Entrepreneurial Journalism Fellow in the last few months, I learned a few things that I believe many of my colleagues across Africa would like to know. The visits gave me the opportunity to further understand why the America media doesn’t still understand Africa as a continent, and still considers a country. Those papers that identify the difference still think it is a continent with many problems — poverty, corruption, and starvation. Thus many can’t risk sending their reporters and correspondents to report from across Africa. The foreign bureaus are gone. And, my American colleagues stress that they don’t have the money to set offices in different African countries.

News outlets that do have correspondents in Africa often have little knowledge of where in the continent they are based. Mainstream news outlets depend on few news agencies — with the same story angle and photos, for example from one African country that is published in different newspapers and outlets in the states. Most foreign media representatives in Africa can be found in three African countries — South Africa, Kenya, and Senegal. Sometimes, you find few in Nigeria, and Ethiopia. Here, we’re talking about a continent with 54 countries and diverse cultures. In the States, minority and ethnic news organizations continue to struggle for their daily survival, making it difficult to serve African in the diaspora.

The above reasons, and a plethora of other issues, paved the way and reinforced the need for a continental Africa newspaper, where African journalists can reports from their various countries and across America. Many professional African journalists are not visible in America’s newsrooms, especially with recent challenges faced by the media worldwide. Today, Africa has an abundance of modern communications, including more than five thousand paid-for newspapers of various sizes. Yet, their global impact in shaping the continent and addressing its social and political problems seems to be minimal.

Also, the total numbers of newspapers and media outlets in various African countries are not properly documented. Many African newspaper or news media mushroom on the worldwide web and disappear within months. Many of these outlets have their political affiliations and can’t be trusted by the people, as suspicion, and accusations of bias are sometimes widespread, for example in countries such as Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, and Kenya to name a few.

We (The AfricaPaper) think Africa and its people deserve better, especially in a rapidly changing media landscape. Africa deserves credible media organizations with professional reporters and correspondents across the continent to document its successes, as well as its failures, and identify issues that need improvement.

One such area in reporting on Africa’s democracies, press freedom, development and news coverage of its people at home and abroad. This is a task that cannot be left to mediocre journalists, and tourist-reporters. Thus, the need for The AfricaPaper with local journalists and media experts covering their various countries and collaborating with their colleagues in the diaspora to report and publish news and information about Africa and its people.

This is not an easy task, America and its media landscape is rapidly changing, while continental Africa’s media is still struggling to catch up with new media technologies. Leaders continue to muzzle news organizations, harassing journalists and constantly strafing press freedom. In America, there is now Entrepreneurial Journalism, and journalists learn about new tools, and develop new applications (app) almost on a daily basis. Africa, and its newsrooms lack training in new media apps, and tools that will help journalists to do a better job.

The AfricaPaper plans to share such training, and share educational materials with African journalists. The paper will collaborate with major news media organizations across Africa to meet the changes in the media business, challenges faced by journalists, and Africa’s news industry in general by exploring new business models.