BusinessDay

Under-reporting of AfCFTA detrimental to investments – report

Despite the opportunities the African Continental Free Trade Area(AfCFTA) presents, its coverage in terms of business news and analysis is under-reported and this is detrimental to investments, the latest Business in Africa Narrative Report says.

According to the report published by Africa No Filter, a narrative change organisation, the free trade agreement area is the largest in the world, with 54 participating countries and access to a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion. Yet this makes up less than one percent of business news and analysis in global and African media.

“Several academic researchers have proved a correlation between media coverage and investment levels, and one study of the stock market in the US showed that media visibility led to more investments than underinvestment,” the report states.

Although AfCFTA was founded in 2018, it commenced activities on January 1, 2021. It aims to create a single market for goods and services in order to deepen the economic integration of Africa which could in the long run reduce COVID-19-induced growth contraction, poverty and inequality trends and spur sustainable and inclusive growth on the continent.

An official at Africa No Filter said the United Nation Economics Commission for Africa (UNECCA) makes it clear that Africa will need the AfCFTA to stimulate socio-economic recovery, but for this to happen, there must be a greater understanding of its significance both inside and outside of Africa.

Read also: Three ways countries can extract AfCFTA benefits for economic rebound

“This means shifting the narrative on the trade area from a relative unknown to a critical piece of Africa’s future development, pointing to the trade area’s size,” the official further said.

The report analysed over 750 million stories published between 2017 and 2021 on more than 6,000 African news sites and 183,000 sites outside the continent. Insights were gained using eight research approaches, including analysing trends on Twitter, academic research and literature reviews as well as 22 global business indices.

It also investigated news and content about business in Africa and the impact of perceptions about Africa as a business and investment destination and also identified information and news gaps that offer alternative framing for business in Africa.

Speaking on the reasons for producing the report, Moky Makura, the executive director at Africa No Filter noted that they wanted to understand why Africa is seen as a high-risk business destination and why the cost of money is at a premium.

“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,” Makura added.

Last year, Akinwumi Adesina, president of African Development Bank, told an audience of African ambassadors in Washington that a concerted effort to change the narrative on Africa in the United States was necessary to attract increased US investments into the continent.

The report further highlighted key findings from the analysis such as 70 percent of coverage about business in Africa references foreign powers, including China, the USA, Russia, France, and the UK and that nearly 50 percent of articles of business in Africa in global media only cover South Africa and Nigeria, crowding out business stars Mauritius who are currently the highest-ranking African country in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness Index.

It also showed that negative references continue to dominate coverage of business on the continent, with ‘corruption’ referenced in nearly 10 percent of stories on business in Africa and that women represented only 29 percent of the protagonists in stories on the subject and 12 percent of the experts or sources used, despite Africa having the fastest growth rate of women-led enterprises in the world.

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