Africa Rising: The international news industry, and the (re)framing of the African continent as ‘the final investment frontier’

TitleAfrica Rising: The international news industry, and the (re)framing of the African continent as ‘the final investment frontier’
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Bunce, M. J.
Affiliation (1st Author)University of Oxford
Section or WGPolitical Economy Section
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodePET1b
Slot Code (Keyword)PET1b
Time of Session9:00-10:30
Session TitleNews industry and Global Capitalism
Submission ID6926

This paper explores structural changes in the international news system, and their implications for the international representation of Africa.The international news media has long been criticized for its negative, dark and pessimistic coverage of the African continent. Scholars argue that these negative narratives are both powerful and dangerous,, they perpetuate reductive and damaging stereotypes; obscure the political causes of crises; and reinforce neo-colonial power imbalance.This paper argues that these negative representations of Africa in the international news media are starting to change, and a new discourse is emerging that draws attention to business, innovation, investment and growth around the African continent.The paper explores three separate factors that are dovetailing in the present international moment to re-cast Africa in financial terms.Firstly, economic growth across the African continent over the past decade has led to a greater interest in, and funding of, international business journalism about countries and topics in Africa.At the same time that business journalism is flourishing, there have been systematic and far-reaching cuts in the number of traditional general news foreign correspondent posted around the world. The net result is that business journalism is a higher portion of all international news copy. While traditional outlets struggle to fund correspondents, business focused outlets such as the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and – importantly – Bloomberg –continue to expand their reporter presence in Africa.A final, important factor is the Reuters newswires – one of the most important producers of international news on the continent – which has changed its reporting practices to target content to financial clients. Financial news has long been a feature at the Reuters newswire, but it was not until 2008 that this genre started to dominate its production of news on Africa. This shift has significant implications for the thousands of media around the world who take their foreign news from the Reuters wire. A content analysis of the “World’s major newspapers” category on lexis nexis, shows that these changes are starting to impact the representation of Africa; the continent is increasingly framed in business and investment terms. For example, over the past ten years, the quantity of stories on African development has remained constant, while stories on African business, investment and finance have more than doubled. The paper discusses the implications of this trend, finding cause for both concern and celebration. At their most crass, international business stories frame the African continent as a site for Western financial intervention– a continuation of neo-colonial discourse. In such stories, Africa is “there for the taking”- a passive space, where Western forces dominate and extract value. On the other hand, financial and business reporting contains stories of positive growth, emerging markets, opportunities, and indigenously produced business and development solutions. Moreover, business journalism generally draws on a matter of fact discourse that is less likely to employ sensational and metaphoric language. This offers a counterbalance to the relentlessly negative depictions of ‘Dark Africa’, so widely criticized in the academic literature.

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