Narratives on business in Africa shows AfCFTA barely features in business stories – New report

Narratives on business in Africa shows AfCFTA barely features in business stories – New report


  • Analysis of 750 million stories published between 2017 and 2021
  • <1% of the coverage on business and Africa referenced the AfCFTA
  • 70% of coverage about business in Africa references foreign powers including China, the USA, Russia, France and the UK
  • Corruption referenced in nearly 10% of business stories in African media

The African Continental Free Trade Area is the largest free trade area in the world by the number of participating countries and access to a combined Gross Domestic Product of US$3.4trillion. Yet it makes up under 1% of business news and analysis about Africa, according to the newly launched ‘The Business in Africa Narrative Report’ by Africa No Filter and AKAS in partnership with the African Union.

The report shows that the keywords, stories, frames, and narratives associated with business on the continent are dangerously distorted. There is an overemphasis on the role of governments, foreign powers and larger African states; alongside an underappreciation of the role of young people, women, entrepreneurs, creative businesses, smaller successful African states, and Africa’s future potential.

The report launch coincides with the fourth year of the AfCFTA.

Moky Makura, Executive Director at Africa No Filter, said: “We wanted to understand why Africa is seen as a high-risk business destination and why the cost of money is at a premium. The report gives us an insight into why the case is so. It shows that business opportunities on the continent are both underrepresented and misrepresented; and now that we know this, we can work on educating the media and changing the narrative around business in Africa”.

Leslie Richer, Director of Information and Communication for the African Union, said: “This ground-breaking report comes at a crucial time for the continent as it recovers from the economic impact of COVID-19. Experts predict that Africa needs an estimated US$175billion per year for 20 years to end extreme poverty, and narratives about business and the AfCFTA will play a critical role as it signals that Africa is open for business”.

Richard Addy, report author and co-founder of award-winning international audience strategy consultancy, AKAS, added: “This ground-breaking report offers a detailed data analysis and rigorous research into the narratives, frames and stories are the lenses through which we perceive and experience Africa. Evidence shows that the narratives talked about in media, international institutions, think tanks, and consultants have a demonstrable effect on performance in stock markets and on capital”.

In addition to the missing stories about the AfCFTA, the report highlighted a number of other key frames dominating dangerous distortions played out in stories, and the underrepresentation of businesses across the continent, including:

  • Foreign powers dominate:There is another scramble for Africa according to international media. But this time, it is about who can best profit from the continent’s business opportunities. And the charge is being led by foreign powers, with 70% of coverage about business in Africa referencing China, the USA, Russia, France and the UK.
  • More negative coverage: International media are more likely to have a negative tone. African media are twice as likely to reference corruption in their coverage of business in Africa compared to international media, with corruption featuring in 10% of African media stories.
  • Africa is Nigeria and South Africa:Nearly 50% of articles in global media outlets reference South Africa or Nigeria, crowding out business stars like Mauritius, Namibia, and Seychelles. Mauritius is the highest-ranking African country in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index.
  • Silencing creativity, amplifying technology:Nollywood is the world’s second-largest film industry, and music genres like AfroBeats and AmaPiano are influencing pop culture globally, yet creative businesses were only featured in 1% of all business news articles across African and global media. Additionally, while 22% of Africa’s working-age population started new ventures between 2011 and 2016 – the highest rate of any region globally – African start-ups received declined coverage.
  • Youth and women are underrepresented: African countries claim the top three spots in the Mastercard Index for the highest concentration of women business owners globally, but business news and analysis on gender equality issues have declined. Africa also has the youngest population globally. However, youth and women are underrepresented in business stories. In fact, online news coverage of young people declined between 2017 and 2021. In addition, stories about African youth globally are often framed through negative stereotypes, invoking images of inactivity, violence and crime.
  • Government, policy, and regulations dominate: 54% of business news in 2021 was framed through government action and policies. Additionally, African media focused more on themes related to government than on those related to entrepreneurship. Yet, African countries make up six of the top 10 countries whose populations were most likely to search for the topic of entrepreneurship in 2021.

The report is the latest research project by narrative-change organisation Africa No Filter and forms part of their work to understand and shift harmful and stereotypical narratives about Africa.

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