Journalism and media play a central role in shaping our world, informing the public and influencing decision-makers in politics and business. It’s no wonder that this era of major disruption in news and media has also been marked by increasing economic and political volatility.
But the same forces that are changing news – like the rapid spread of mobile phones and the internet – also present tremendous opportunities to build a more peaceful, prosperous, and inclusive world. The more that leaders work together across borders and across the public and private sectors, the better positioned we will be to seize those opportunities.
That is a key goal of the Africa Business Media Innovators Forum, which convenes this week in Dakar. The forum is part of the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa, a collaboration between leading African universities, non-profit groups, and the private sector, aimed at strengthening financial journalism and economic data across the continent.
This week’s conference brings together heads of some of the world’s biggest and most influential media organizations alongside leaders in technology, government, and nonprofits from across Africa and around the world. It is a chance to discuss the biggest trends altering the news and media landscape, the most successful strategies for navigating changes, and how to best harness the power of media to improve lives.
The stakes couldn’t be higher. Information empowers people and helps to open doors to opportunity, but misinformation can contribute to political and economic instability as well as bad decisions by businesses and investors. Mobile technology has given people access to more diverse viewpoints and perspectives, but also has upended traditional business models for news companies.
Countries around the world face similar challenges. Meeting them requires a combination of smart government policies and private sector technology and leadership. No one has all the answers – and that’s why the forum, and the larger initiative it is part of, is focused on bringing people from diverse industries and countries together to share ideas.
We started the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa in 2014 in three of the continent’s largest economies: Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. To date more than 600 professionals have completed a specialized training course in financial journalism. This year we expanded the initiative to five more countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Tanzania, and Zambia. In addition to substantially expanding the program geographically, this also marks the program’s expansion into Francophone Africa.
A strong news and media sector can be a powerful driver of economic growth – and nowhere is the potential greater than in Africa. Africa’s population is the youngest and fastest-growing of any world region. The continent is home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies and most innovative entrepreneurs.
Reliable news and data can help ensure that the benefits of growth reach the greatest number of people, while helping African businesses grow and create jobs. At the same time, reliable economic data helps bring transparency and accountability, which promotes good governance and helps to attract new investment.
There’s an old saying: The news is the first rough draft of history. The better the first draft, the brighter the future will be – in Africa and beyond.