Dakar — In response to the urgent calls from numerous media professionals and industry stakeholders on the continent for free, independent, professional, and prosperous media in Africa, AllAfrica Global Media is launching a new platform called the AllAfrica Media Leaders’ Summit (AMLS).
Like everywhere else in the world, the media industry in Africa is currently undergoing significant changes and facing collective challenges that need to be addressed.
Therefore, the first edition of AMLS, which will now be an annual gathering of Media Leaders from the continent, will take place from October 24th to 26th in Nairobi, with the support of the government of the Republic of Kenya.
This meeting marks a new era and aims to provide a much-needed platform for All Africa to bring together industry stakeholders and partners.
Already, on November 4, 2008, the day of the inauguration of the first African-American president, Barack Obama, AllAfrica Global Media made its mark in Dakar.
Indeed, with the financial support of the World Bank Group, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ecobank, and Coca-Cola, we had the immense privilege of bringing together around fifty of Africa’s most influential media leaders to launch the African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF).
Prominent figures such as Linus Gitahi, CEO of the Nation Media Group in Kenya; Nduka Obaigbena, founder and chairman of THISDAY group in Nigeria; Maria Kivanuka, founder of Radio One in Uganda; John Allen, CEO of AllAfrica; Dr. Tendai Mhizha, global strategist and senior advisor of AllAfrica; Arlindo Lopes, president of the Southern African Broadcasting Association (SABA); Boureima Sigue, founder of “Le Pays” in Burkina Faso; Juliana Rakotoarivelo, CEO of Midi Maoga Sinana in Madagascar; Kwasi Tum, CEO of Multimedia Group in Ghana; and Ramanou Kouferidji, CEO of Imanle Africa Television, were part of the 2008 meeting.
Following this first edition, the AllAfrica Board of Directors transferred the organization of the AMLF forum to the African Media Initiative (AMI), an initiative aimed at improving the media landscape on the continent.
Thus, AMLF was successfully organized from 2008 to 2015, with media stakeholders including influential journalists, editors-in-chief, civil society organizations, academics, business leaders, as well as heads of state and leaders from prestigious African institutions such as the African Union, the African Development Bank, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The organization grew from 50 participants in the beginning to more than 500 participants in each edition.
However, for various reasons, AMLF has not been held for the past eight years.
The first edition of AMLS will have the theme: “Rethinking African Media in Times of Profound Change.”
Why is it essential to establish a pan-African platform to bring together media leaders? And why now?
The adoption of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is widely seen as a change of course with immense potential that could usher in an era of development and prosperity.
In the media industry, increased digitization, the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI), widespread disinformation campaigns, and the use of deep fakes have created a new reality and new challenges, amidst the risks of civil unrest and various conflicts on the horizon. Hence, the relevance of an annual conclave of African media leaders to discuss and exchange ideas on crucial topics that concern the entire continent and the role of the media.
From this perspective, the media industry cannot ignore important issues such as:
1. The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA): Its implementation offers media leaders opportunities for cross-border collaboration, content sharing, and talent exchange. For example, how can the AfCFTA facilitate industry growth, promote cultural exchanges, and enhance Africa’s image globally.
2. Local Content Creation: With this new landscape, media leaders need to devise strategies to support and amplify local voices, cover local events, and promote the creative industries on the continent, fostering a thriving African media ecosystem, especially in areas of security and peacebuilding, women’s empowerment, and equitable access to healthcare.
The establishment of the AfCFTA offers an opportunity to improve the quality, production, and distribution of local African content.
3. Skills Development and Training: The evolving media landscape requires continuous skills development and training. Media leaders must allocate resources to capacity-building initiatives, mentorship programs, and knowledge-sharing platforms to equip African media professionals with the necessary skills to succeed in these challenging times.
4. Digitization: The rapid digitization of the media industry has transformed the ways of content creation, distribution, and consumption, as well as working methods. Media leaders must discuss methods of adopting digital platforms, harnessing social media, and exploring innovative digital storytelling techniques to effectively engage with the audience.
5. Introduction of Artificial Intelligence (AI): The integration of AI in the media industry has revolutionized tools and services such as content creation, personalized recommendations, and audience analysis. Media leaders must study and grasp the ethical implications, opportunities, and challenges related to AI adoption to ensure responsible and unbiased use of technologies.
6. Misinformation and Disinformation: The proliferation of fake news and disinformation poses significant challenges to media credibility and public trust. Media stakeholders must collaborate through fact-checking initiatives, promote media literacy programs, and devise strategies to combat the spread of false information while preserving the integrity of journalism and its role in society.
7. Deepfakes: The rise of deepfake technology, which allows for the creation of highly convincing fake videos and audios, raises concerns about the authenticity of media content. Media leaders must discuss detection techniques, ethical guidelines, and policy frameworks to address the potential misuse of deepfakes and maintain public trust to preserve peace and security in our countries.
Considering all these challenges, the convening of an annual meeting of African media leaders, joined by other media stakeholders including heads of state, continental institutions, academics, civil society representatives, and private sector champions, is more important today than ever before.
Amadou Mahtar Ba is the co-founder and executive chairman of AllAfrica Global Media, the owner and operator of the largest electronic news and information distributor focused on Africa.