“Key African institutions are not doing enough to support the media in Africa”. This is one of the conclusions of a preliminary report released during the recent Consultative Forum on Media Strategies held in Nairobi, Kenya, by the African Media Initiative (AMI).
The report found that Western governments and international Foundations are the key funders of African media while African development institutions are largely absent. It also highlighted the gaps between what media support organizations are doing, and the needs articulated by media owners.
“It was interesting to note that many of the media support organizations we surveyed, particularly those working regionally and globally, concentrate their efforts on advocating for press freedom and the protection of journalists. That work is absolutely necessary to create a safe and conducive media environment”, said report author Maimouna Jallow.
“However, time and again, media owners tell us that what they need help with is better infrastructure, better trained senior managers and making their businesses financially sustainable. Media organizations must start looking much more into these issues too”.
The preliminary report, “Developing Strong Synergies and Partnerships for Africa” is based on a survey of some 30 international, regional and national media organizations, as well as media owners from across the continent. Given the positive response from the more than 100 forum participants, who spoke of a lack of Africa-wide research and data on media trends, AMI has committed itself to undertaking a more in-depth study that can help media organizations, owners, editors, journalists and donor’s alike better understand the environment they operate in.
A second AMI report presented during the Forum showed that coverage and analysis of development issues made up only about 12% of overall news coverage. According to report author Joseph Warungu, a Programme Director at AMI: “The media in Africa is still obsessed with covering politics. You can almost predict in advance what the front pages will say. But at AMI we believe that it is fundamental that the media be part of the developmental aspirations of this continent. For that to happen, media in Africa needs to cover the issues that matter to its citizens - how will their children find jobs in the future; what food are they putting in their mouths; how are the continent’s resources being spent; and so on”.
The Consultative Forum on Media Strategies was the first of its kind, and was launched by AMI’s new CEO Eric Chinje, who presented AMI’s three-year strategy and invited other media organizations to create new partnerships that would help the media sector grow.
“If there is something that AMI is doing and that you can do better, take the lead. If you need AMI to facilitate relationships with media owners, journalists, media support organizations, advertisers, funders, and so on, we will do so. It is about identifying gaps, minimizing duplication, seizing opportunities and developing the necessary assessment and evaluation tools to ensure that investments in the media are effective and lasting".
AMI’s strategy rests on three main axes of intervention: Creating a network of excellence through the Zimeo Platform; leading the specialisation of journalists in Africa through its Media Services and creating Pan-African content that speaks to the narrative of a ‘rising continent’ through the African Media Cooperative (AMC).
“We call on institutions to partner with us. In the next three years, we build networks of specialists on issues that are critical to continental development. We will be expanding our networks and ensuring that we can create better synergies between the key players on the continent. Africa must speak in her own voice and the media plays a critical role in carrying those messages,” Chinje added.
AMI announced an Ebola Special Fund for the Union of Journalists from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea during the Forum. The fund will help financially support the brave journalists working tirelessly to cover one of the hardest stories in history - the story of the disease that is robbing their countries of its people and its developmental advances.