This week in Livingstone, business and government leaders are coming together at the fourth annual African Business Media Innovators forum. It is a chance to discuss the media landscape of the future – and how to harness its power to drive economic growth.
Africa is home to countries with the highest expected growth rates in the media and entertainment industries. Six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies are in Africa, as well as an expanding middle class that’s creating more opportunities for trade and investment – so it’s not surprising that more media companies are looking to expand here.
That investment will bring economic benefits. But it will also present new challenges, which will be the focus of the conversations at this week’s forum, which will be led by executives, investors, and government officials from Africa and abroad.
One of those challenges is the major shift in how people get their news. Mobile technology and social media have grown exponentially, and both are generating an extraordinary amount of new data. When data is reliable and accurate, both the public and private sectors can benefit. Companies use data to better reach and serve their customers. Governments use it to better inform the public and improve services. And financial journalists can use data to offer analysis that help investors make better, more informed decisions about where they put their money.
But all of this rests on data being reliable and accurate – and the spread of mobile technology has also increased the amount of false and inaccurate information, which poses risks to society. Bad data leads to bad decision-making. That’s why high-quality financial journalism is integral to promoting sound economic development. News and transparency make markets more efficient. And they help companies and investors identify new opportunities, both here in Africa and abroad.
Strengthening financial journalism was one of our top goals when we first launched Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa in Johannesburg in 2014. To train more financial reporters – and support more of the great journalism that helps build strong societies – Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa is already collaborating with leading universities, non-profit groups, and the private sector. We are focused on three countries: South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria. Together with the Ford Foundation, we also established a fund to help strengthen small, campus-based and community-based media outlets. We are not only supporting Africa’s journalism professionals of today, but also nurturing the talent of tomorrow.
Bloomberg has more than 200 employees in seven offices across the continent, and we expect those numbers to continue growing. At the same time, we are also committed to ensuring that progress across the continent benefits the greatest number of people. Our foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, has worked closely with the governments of Congo and Rwanda to help more women increase their incomes and become financially independent. We are helping to expand access to maternal and reproductive health care in Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Uganda. We are also working with leaders across Africa to reduce traffic crashes – a public health threat that not only causes death and injury, but also diminishes a country’s productivity and growth prospects.
Across the world, investments by business and philanthropic organizations can make societies more stable and more prosperous. This week’s forum will bring together some of the sharpest minds in both areas – and we hope it will help accelerate the successful growth of the media industry, the middle class, and economies across Africa.
Michael R. Bloomberg is the founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies and serve three terms as Mayor of New York.