That there is a direct link between a free, responsible media and the maintenance of prosperous, democratic societies is to many an article of faith. The recent uprisings in North Africa are a clear example of the connection between freedom of information and the power of people to demand representation. Information disseminated though social media channels mobilised the pro-democracy uprisings and if the results of the Arab revolts are democratic regimes, then a sonorous blow will have been struck not only for the people of North Africa, but for the cause of internet freedom, and freedom of the press.
The media is a vital tool in encouraging debate and in educating people by connecting audiences to their societies. By accurate and incisive interrogation of the flow of events, the media empowers people to have a stake in a changing world. Whilst the media's part in reinforcing the public sector is widely acknowledged, its role in supporting the private sector has a lower profile. The growing power and credibility of the African media is playing an invaluable part in the development of the African private sector. Not only do stories that portray Africa as a place worthy of investment form part of the changing narrative of the continent, but an alert and discerning African fourth estate is taking up the challenge of encouraging business to develop strong, sustainable and positive business practice.
Furthermore, they are holding them to account when they fail to do so. Last year, for example, the outcry from pan-African media sources relating to allegations about counterfeit electronic, pharmaceutical and consumer goods imported from China was an important factor leading to the Chinese Chamber of Commerce implementing a core legal framework against counterfeiting in February. The Chinese government has now declared that Chinese nationals caught exporting counterfeit and substandard products to Uganda are to be imprisoned for 20 years.
Indeed, the media's part in filtering and transmitting information takes on a particular tenor in the business sector. In the diverse commercial world, the reporter's drive to tell the right story at the right time not only informs the public, but can form part of what directs the rest of the business community, and can heavily impact investment.
Robust media boosts investment
FDI flows into Africa have increased considerably over the last 10 years. In 2006, private capital flows into...