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Greening Africa’s news deserts

Franz Krüger

The search for sustainable local media in sub-Saharan Africa

Local media play a critical role in informa-tion ecosystems, and their weakness in many African countries mirrors and reinforces social inequalities. On the continent, sustainability has been a challenge long before the rise of digital platforms and the resultant change in audience behaviour brought the issue to the fore in the Global North.

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The search for solutions needs to start from an understanding of some key characteristics of local media in Africa, particularly in contexts of disadvantage and marginalisation. These include issues of scale, the lack of local resources and the ways in which political dynamics may play out with media being captured by local power-holders.

International experience can be drawn on to develop policy suggestions that fit African con-texts. Among principles that should underpin policy choices are:

  • a focus on systemic impact;
  • particular attention on the areas where information poverty is greatest;
  • platform-neutrality, while preferring plat-forms used most commonly;
  • ongoing monitoring of developments in and around media at local levels to deal with problems that may arise.

Taking these principles into account, areas of possible support for local and community media include:

  1. The development of an enabling environment, including legal and regulatory measures and the provision of back-end support in areas such as research, training and others.
  2. Strengthening funding mechanisms, including:
    • indirect subsidy such as tax relief and the zero-rating of news websites;
    • direct public funding, as exists for media in several countries;
    • the fair use of government advertising, often a major factor in media economies in the Global South;
    • commercial income and ways to support the access of local and community media to advertising markets;
    • responding to the power of digital plat-forms, who need to make a fair contribu-tion to local information ecosystems;
    • improved co-ordination among interna-tional donor agencies in order to deliver greater impact, including support for the new International Fund for Public Interest Media; and
    • the development of new business models that draw on diverse sources of income, with particular focus on direct audience support.

The report ends with a set of specific recom-mendations directed at the different roleplayers: wider society, including civil society groups; governments and regulators; international donors; media organisations and networks and the digital platform giants.

Read the full analysis "Greening Africa’s news deserts" here as a PDF.


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Hendrik Sittig

Hendrik Sittig bild

Leiter des Medienprogramms Subsahara-Afrika

hendrik.sittig@kas.de +27112142900


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