Mombasa Exchange 2021: What are finance and economics about? - Media Programme Sub-Saharan Africa
This portlet should not exist anymore
The importance of finance and economics reporting is becoming more pronounced, as news consumers show a growing interest in this field. Meanwhile, the pool of reporters with the relevant skills remains limited, something that stifles the growth of business journalism. Consequently, that limits media houses from explaining national budgets, ramifications of free trade, company accounts and other themes to their readers and audiences.
Given this background, KAS Media Africa hosted a conference – from 6th to 9th September 2021 – in Mombasa, a history-rich Kenyan port city with a sizeable tourism industry. The event drew 20 print and broadcast journalists from business newsrooms in 14 countries – participants hailed from capitals such as Banjul, Harare, Lusaka and Yaoundé.
For Ouagadougou-based Sandrine Sawadogo, L’Economiste du Faso editor-in-chief, one of the major benefits from the Mombasa Exchange was an opportunity to interact with journalists from beyond West Africa. “I was very happy to be exposed to high standards of financial reporting,” said Sawadogo, adding that she was putting into practice some of the learnings from Mombasa. Likewise, KAS scholar and financial reporter Arnold Segawa, one of the speakers, noted the skills gaps but praised the commitment shown by media practitioners to improve the quality of financial reporting. As a highlight, he cited potential collaborations emanating from this exchange – such as cross-border projects, notably a 2022 special edition by the Ethiopian Business Review – that the participants are discussing or pursuing.
Further, Segawa, whose session on Day 2 looked at GDP-related themes, explained how media practitioners could use such economic indicators to generate several story ideas. GDP stories “could range from consumption to government spending… such coverage shows the breadth of financial reporting away from mere statistics”.
Overall, the conference gave the participants an opportunity to network across national and regional boundaries; and engage with experts in areas relating to macroeconomics, free trade, research and others. At the crux of the programme was the quality of financial journalism. While taking the participants through the different phases of Kenya’s business reporting development, since the 1980s (when newspapers merely rehashed government’s budget speeches), veteran newsman Joseph Odindo, media consultant at Aga Khan University (Nairobi), urged editors and reporters to return to the basics: read and understand the dynamics of the economy in order to be effective in their duties to explain to their audiences.
KAS Media Africa Director Christoph Plate reminded the media practitioners of their duty as gatekeepers and how the information they find or the manner in which they present it can help shape opinions. “As journalists and editors, we have a big responsibility,” asserted Plate. “As gatekeepers, we tell our readers and our viewers what is important and what is not important. We should always remind ourselves of this responsibility over and over again.”