Television can be a tremendous force for the good. It can shed light on the dark corners, where ignorance and hatred fester…. But the flow of information ought not to be one way only, from North to South; this has led to a burgeoning ‘content divide’ that threatens to overwhelm or marginalize local views and voices…Press freedom and pluralism of content can, and must develop together in the information society. Here too, the world’s broadcasters can make an important contribution.
- Kofi Annan, Former Secretary General, UN.
The view of Africa’s visionary thinkers is that the 21st Century is the continent’s century of emancipation. The willingness, for example, of 25 member countries of the African Union to ratify the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement does reflect a strong desire of an Africa in search of innovative ways that will ensue in the renaissance of a prosperous and culturally integrated continent.
However, Africa can only meaningfully prosper if it is able to devise a dynamic Fourth Estate that is able to strengthen its emerging democratic institutions. Currently, out of a total of 54 countries, only eleven countries are listed as 'free' under the freedom index. These are Namibia, Cape Verde, Ghana, Botswana, Mauritius, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, South Africa, and Benin.
Therefore, a financially sustainable mechanism that is able to systematically transform its mostly state-controlled media infrastructure into an editorially independent public interest digital media ecosystem, is urgently required to facilitate the realisation of the consequential African renaissance. Accordingly, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, one of Africa’s most credible and highly respected Statesmen, is spearheading the launch and execution of an Africa Public Interest Media Initiative with the goal to attract appropriate levels of financing in order to achieve the following objectives:
The Africa Public Interest Media Initiative is a public interest media development focused mechanism, which has been designed by George Twumasi, a Fall 2018 Joan Shorenstein Fellow, to ensure the development of an editorially independent, democracy enhancing, public interest media ecosystem.
Public interest media is key to the growth of democracy, given its ability to ensure a safe, healthy and fully-functioning society. Consequently, across Africa’s emerging democracies, ethical journalism has to be pivoted into a central role with an emphasis on providing objective information to the citizenry of each democratically governed country in order to safeguard and strengthen the rule of law.
As a notion, public interest media does underscore the moral authority of journalism to ask hard questions of those in power, whilst testing the limits of ethical practice in order to discover truth. However, public interest media is a concept, which Africa’s political leadership have consistently frowned up; neither do Africa’s mass consumers of analogue and digital media, find it entertaining.
Except for sensationalist gossip news, most consumers of media, the world over, are mostly interested in celebrity and popular culture, and demonstrably less interested in the dull realities of public interest media. But the potential impact, which ethical journalism could have on peoples’ lives, especially within Africa’s emerging democracies, makes public interest media an absolutely vital necessity.
Currently, unlike the rest of the globe, sub-Saharan Africa’s media industries yet to embrace a viable digital ecosystem. Nonetheless, the power of the ongoing global digital revolution is leaving no continent untouched. Already, with limited access to internet, more than 300 million Africans do have the option to watch video clips via WhatsApp, on smartphones and other low-cost mobile devices.
It is for the reasons above that the Africa Public Interest Media Initiative is being developed. As a concept, the Africa Public Interest Media Initiative is underpinned by ABN Holdings Ltd (ABN), which is a for-profit proposition and the Africa Public Broadcasting Foundation (APBF), a not-for-profit proposition. Together, ABN and APBF will facilitate phenomenal change across sub-Saharan Africa.
ABN represents a network of public interest orientated broadcasters and producers, which it will organise into a dynamic, commercial, multimedia conglomerate. ABN’s focus is to assemble, produce, package and distribute engaging Afrocentric audio podcasts, television programmes and content channels targeting at least three hundred million households and mobile handheld device users.
ABN has identified a unique digital content publishing, video gaming and virtual assistance monetisation opportunity spanning Africa’s key markets. Accordingly, ABN has devised a marketing strategy to maximise the financial potential of Africa’s culturally inspiring entertainment industry.
Without support from ABN, public interest media in Africa will struggle to become self-sustaining. Consequently, ABN’s goal is to develop an enabling environment in which public interest media can thrive. It will do so by building a sound digital media ecosystem that is able to ensure the effective distribution of entertaining content - made by Africans for Africans - into millions of African homes.
Second, APBF is designed to build an editorially independent public interest media ecosystem in order to ensure the survival and growth of democracy on the continent of Africa.
Consequently, focusing on English speaking Africa, APBF will provide support to ABN, to pursue the transformation of free-to-air broadcasters (including state-controlled entities) into sustainable public interest media entities.
APBF provides support to ABN by:
The endorsements of the Africa Public Interest Media Initiative by Africa’s credible political class and the continent’s most steadfast public media industry executives, does represent a unique selling proposition that has distinguished the ABN and ABPF from other media support entities that are active on the continent of Africa.
As a result, ABN and the APBF have garnered the market power to transform English speaking Africa’s free-to-air broadcasting sector into an editorially independent Fourth Estate. Consequently, in line with his commitment to ensure the effective implementation of the Africa Public Interest Media Initiative, His Excellency John Kufuor has agreed to convene a series of high-level, media and governance focused, stakeholder e-conferences during the course of 2020, which he has tasked ABN with.