Business Journalism can help Africa fulfill its promise

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BY MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG

Great journalists have an essential role to play in building strong, fair, and open societies – and nowhere is the media’s potential to make a difference greater than in Africa. With growing economies, increasingly robust democracies, and ever more vibrant civil societies opening new doors of opportunity and driving progress against poverty and disease, it’s no wonder that many look to Africa as the next engine of the global economy. Beyond just telling the success stories that have come to define Africa’s fast-growing economies, strong journalism—especially strong business journalism—can help make more of them possible.

Great business journalism can help attract more global investment in Africa by increasing transparency and accountability in capital markets, improving public access to important financial information, and holding the powerful—in both government and business—accountable for corruption and wrong-doing that sets back economic development. Business news and data also help African companies identify new opportunities on the continent and abroad, which creates jobs and drives innovation.

Supporting economic journalism is the goal of the Bloomberg Africa Media Innovators forum, which took place this week in Johannesburg—and the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa of which it’s part. Both grew out of the same principle: Better financial data and information leads to more transparency, which helps investors make better decisions, which in turn moves markets and spurs growth.

This is the standard to which business journalism should aspire, and the Forum brought together leaders in media, representatives from Africa’s major capital exchanges, tech entrepreneurs, and others to develop strategies on how to achieve it.

In addition to sponsoring this week’s forum, the Initiative, which we launched last year in Johannesburg along with the Ford Foundation, works with leading universities in three of Africa’s fastest-growing economies – Kenya, South Africa, and Nigeria – to train new business and financial journalists and help others build new skills, like economic data analysis. More than 600 African journalists participated in the program in its first year. Next year, we’ll expand access to it through the creation of new scholarships, internships, and courses across the continent while also making parts of the curriculum available online. We’re also working with African non-profits to find new ways to use business journalism to spread economic opportunity.

More transparent markets help ensure that economic growth benefits the largest number of people. Reliable, accessible economic data also reduces risks for businesses and investors, and helps governments target resources to where they are most needed. It also helps them measure the impact of their work and identify opportunities for improvement. That’s why, in addition to sponsoring this week’s forum, Bloomberg Philanthropies has supported efforts to gather better data on economic development in sub-Saharan Africa, which helps draw attention to opportunities and highlights initiatives that have been most effective at improving people’s lives. We’ve also worked closely with the governments of Rwanda and Congo to create job training programs for women in industries that are central to each country’s national economic development goals, using data to measure the impact those programs are having on the lives of women and families so that the most effective can be replicated. On the other side of the Atlantic, Bloomberg Philanthropies was honored to join with U.S. President Barack Obama to host the US-Africa Business Forum last summer to strengthen our economic ties and spur more investment across borders.

We’re committed to Africa, because more than ever before, the continent is brimming with opportunity. It is home to four of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies, and by the year 2100, four of every ten people. The population of sub-Saharan Africa’s eleven largest economies has grown by 41% since 2000. Over the last ten years, the GDP of those countries has grown by 51% – more than twice the global rate. By supporting great economic journalism, we can ensure that African economies continue to grow, creating new opportunities and benefits for hundreds of millions of people.

(Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP & Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City)

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