Reporting for duty: the role of the media in improving Africa’s investment climate

When considering how Africa can better fulfil its investment potential, few commentators consider the intrinsic role of the very people penning the discussion – the media.

Rather than international correspondents, it is African journalists who are best placed to debunk the myths surrounding Africa as an investment destination by accurately reporting on the continent’s business potential, educating and informing investors. Explicit and accurate reporting can enforce accountability and transparency in most sectors, expose corruption and transform both international and domestic investors’ perceptions. Without this, investors will continue to be deterred by real or perceived barriers to doing business on the continent.

The 2005 Commission for Africa Report found that media can play an effective role in areas as far reaching as encouraging sustainable development, fighting corruption and promoting good governance. Therefore, African journalists must actively seek to fulfil their role in securing a prosperous future for the continent by proactively seeking out news, analysing stories through independent and investigative research and reporting on the implications of these stories for wider society. Reporting should be very much ‘by Africa for Africa,’ projecting the continent’s investment potential to the international audience.

However, limited resources and embryonic skills can make it difficult for African journalists to effectively scrutinise the business environment and deliver insightful coverage on investment and financial issues. Insufficient training opportunities mean journalists can also be limited in terms of their understanding of wider implications of financial issues. Such restraints can make it hard to deliver challenging and informed commentary that can increase public pressure for greater business and political accountability.

ICF believes that Africa will succeed in fulfilling its investment potential if the continent’s media act as independent advocates for regulatory and institutional change. Media have a key role to play in ensuring that the right questions are asked of both business and government, that investors and entrepreneurs are provided with accurate financial and business information and that the need for investment climate improvements receives public attention and support. In other words, improvements to the investment climate will go hand in hand with the strengthening of Africa’s financial media.

The fundamental importance of journalism on the continent led ICF to initiate a journalist training programme, in partnership with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, at the beginning of last year. The programme represents the most ambitious of its kind in Africa to date and focuses exclusively on raising the standards of business, financial and investment journalism across the continent. Through a series of dedicated training sessions, the aim is to equip journalists with the knowledge and understanding they need to better question, scrutinise and analyse news so they can deliver accurate and insightful reporting on key financial and investment issues.

Increasing the number of skilled financial journalists on the continent reduces the reliance on international newswires for business and financial news and increase the importance (and column inches) given to investment issues by African news outlets. In today’s economic climate, such training is even more crucial and ICF's workshops will help journalists to identify the dangers and the opportunities brought about by economic turbulence.

Omari Issa, CEO of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF)

For more information on the Investment Climate Facility for Africa, please visit www.icfafrica.org

Omari Issa is Chief Executive Officer of the Investment Climate Facility for Africa (ICF). ICF works to remove the barriers that exist to doing business in Africa, recognising that a healthy investment climate is vital for the continent’s economic growth. It is a unique and unprecedented partnership between private companies, development partners and governments, founded on the principle that all parties need to work together to enable the continent to finally realise its very real investment potential. It is the only pan-African body, based in Africa, explicitly and exclusively focused on improving the continent’s investment climate. More information can be found at www.icfafrica.org

 

  

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