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Rethinking Business Journalism education on the continent

As African economies grow, there is a corresponding need for socially-relevant business and economics-focused journalism, yet too often reporting remains shallow and unquestioning, dominated by foreign content, government sources and ‘technospeak’ and there is often an uncritical use of numbers.

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According to seasoned African business journalist and media academic Nixon Kariithi, Business Journalism needs to be meaningful to those it serves; while it is important to understand global politics and trends, we need to be training young journalists to focus on producing relevant local content that connects with people’s cultures – and shows a human face.

Kariithi was the inspiring trainer who guided a group of African journalism academics through a Business Journalism curriculum development workshop hosted at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Windhoek, Namibia recently.

Over the past few years KAS Media Africa has been working with a number of reputable African Journalism Schools to meet the challenge of improving Business and Economics Journalism education. The group – representing universities in Malawi, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Uganda, Nigeria and Ghana - has been focused on either updating or introducing new Business Reporting courses.

KAS Media Africa has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with each of the Universities offering support for the development and introduction of the Business Journalism courses and several are in the final stages of accreditation and will be offering the course in the coming teaching cycle.

The Windhoek workshop covered complex pedagogical and philosophical issues with Kariithi challenging the group to rethink not only the structure and strategy of media coverage on the continent, but also the current relationships with state and national institutions and the private sector and the role of media as national institutions themselves.

“Let us reconstruct our journalism practice based on our own context and experiences, dialogues and life struggles,” Kariithi challenged.

The academics took a break from the classroom for a field trip to visit the offices of the Namibia Economist. After 27 years the weekly newspaper converted to a digital-only publication six months ago and editor Daniel Steinmann outlined the benefits, saying he only wished they had done it sooner. Not only is the publication relieved from the burden of printing and distribution costs, through digital tools like google analytics they now know exactly how many readers they are reaching.

From previously printing 7 000 copies, figures show that they now have 153 000 Namibian readers and between 600 000 and 650 000 globally per week – and this confirmed reach can be converted into advertising revenue.

After three dynamic and productive workshop days together the group was inspired to collaborate to produce research in the field of business reporting – either for a book or a specialist journal edition – which could also resolve the shortage of published papers and academic resources in this area and offer inspiration for their students to pursue a career in the specialization.

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