‘Unprecedented’ interest in Africa news

23 May 2008

There is currently unprecedented interest in news from Africa, especially from investors who watch for both good news and bad, Reuters Africa editor Barry Moody told delegates at the International Media Forum South Africa (IMFSA) conference in Johannesburg this week.

“Africa is no longer a distant curiosity, now it’s a place of expanding potential,” Moody told local and international media and government communicators at the two-day forum that was held to discuss South Africa and Africa’s media coverage abroad.

Reuters covers stories related to investment opportunities such as Nigeria’s oil, Kenya’s coffee market, Malawi’s tea farms and Mauritius’ fishing industry.

Africa was also a fascinating place to work because of its volatility, he said, adding that Kenya was a good example of this, following the post-election violence.

The ‘next big deal’

Wall Street Journal Africa Africa bureau chief Chip Cummins said it was his responsibility to find out what sort of news from Africa the publication’s two million print and one million online subscribers were interested in.

“There is an insatiable appetite for African stories. Africa is fascinating with many political moving parts. A lot of our readers are looking for what stocks they can invest in,” he said.

Africa was seen as the new exploration frontier, he said, where one could find investment opportunities and the “next big deal”.

The Journal did not have a sub Saharan Africa-based reporter until late last year when a correspondent was sent to Nigeria and Cummins added that he would like to have a correspondent based in Johannesburg soon.

Eyewitness account

BBC News Africa editor Joseph Warungu said the rest of the world was watching South Africa with a keen eye due to the 2010 Fifa World Cup. “It will be a big story and we will be putting a lot of resources into covering it,” he said.

The BBC has 250 reporters and 70 bureaus in Africa. “There is nothing that can replace an eyewitness account of an event,” he said, adding that the BBC stood by the principles of evidence and transparency.

South Africa The Good News editor Ian MacDonald said there were only a handful of correspondents reporting on a complex continent, which could result in superficial stories, and reporters not covering Africa the best they could.

He said South African journalists had a social obligation to report on positive stories. “It can be a harrowing experience to read through a newspaper. There are vast stories that are positive that can be covered,” he said.

Tackling major topics

Reuters Africa website editor John Chiahemen said they had tried to break new ground when they launched the Africa website because of the growing demand for news from Africa, with the site currently attractive over two million visitors per day.

Reuters readers, who are mostly the top 10% of influential people in the world, had been particularly interested in the site’s investing pages. At the click of a button, visitors to the site can find information on mining, oil, agriculture as well as get updates on key African markets and stock listings.

Reuters had also recently introduced blogging on all its sites. “It has seen massive success with numerous comments flooding in,” he said.

Also attending the IMFSA, was CNN Africa bureau chief Kim Norgaard, who said there was no better feeling than telling successful stories from Africa and changing peoples perceptions.

“However, we have to report on the big negative stories too, we can’t ignore them. Our audience expects that of us,” he said, adding that it was important not to squeeze coverage of Africa into one small programme.

“We tackle major topics and themes from all over the world to show people how similar we all are.”

Source: BuaNews