Africa’s global narrative: AfDB Group President calls for media transformation
Dr Akinwumi Adesina — President, African Development Bank Group
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Africa’s global narrative: AfDB Group President calls for media transformation

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, has pleaded for more balanced media coverage of Africa and its development, noting it was critical for changing false narratives.

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Delivering a keynote speech to the All Africa’s Media summit in Nairobi, attended by nearly 300 participants from across the continent, he praised the crucial role the media plays in strengthening democracy and advancing inclusivity.

The Bank Group president said there were many positive developments in Africa yet the continent continues to suffer misrepresentations which undermine its economic progress and investment potential.

“Despite the significant progress within our continent, the prevailing media narrative often focuses on negative stereotypes, overlooking the substantial advancements and resilience Africa demonstrates,” he added.

Dr Adesina said there was plenty of positive news to report about and highlighted the continent’s economic resilience regional and amid global challenges. 

Growth rate

He said that in 2023, Africa’s growth rate surpassed the global average, with 11 African nations ranked among the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Dr Adesina referenced a 2021 Africa No Filter Report, which revealed significant adherence to outdated and negative clichés in media reports about Africa. 

“It’s time for change,” he declared. “We must reshape the narrative about Africa to reflect its true spirit and potential.”

He emphasised the critical nature of information and its ability to have a profound negative impact on development and investor perceptions even though an in-depth investigation by Moody’s Analytics had shown the continent was much less of a risk than many other continents.

“We must promote a balanced view that highlights both the challenges and the many successes of Africa. It’s about changing perceptions and showcasing Africa as a continent rich with opportunity and innovation.”

Digital technology

The Bank Group President also spoke about the challenges and transformations within the media sector, highlighting the impact of digital technology.

“The media landscape has dramatically shifted with the rise of the internet and mobile technology, leading to a proliferation of digital platforms.” 

While this has democratised information, it has also complicated issues, the distinction between fact and fiction can become blurred.” Dr Adesina said.

To counter unfair and unbalanced narratives, Dr Adesina urged the creation of a powerful, globally respected African media and proposed strategic collaborations among regional financial institutions to support this cause, emphasising the need for media to act as a catalyst for development.

“We need to celebrate and promote the continent’s successes, turning the tide against the longstanding stereotypes that have clouded the global view of Africa… What you call yourself, is the name others will subscribe to you.”

“For as long as we continually denigrate ourselves and play into the hands of those who control the narrative about Africa, we will be stuck with a label that does not belong to us,” he added.

AfDB successes

Dr Adesina shifted focus to the bank and highlighted it’s own successes which included maintaining an AAA credit rating and launching groundbreaking financial initiatives that have earned it respect as an innovative and successful multilateral development bank.

“We have proven that Africa can lead with innovation and strength in the global financial landscape.” 

“Yet, these achievements receive minimal attention compared to the persistent focus on Africa’s challenges.” He said.

Adesina added that just one month ago, the Bank launched a landmark $750 million hybrid capital instrument, again with a Triple A rating, which was oversubscribed eight times. 

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He described this as a huge “testament to the confidence and trust in Africa’s burgeoning financial capabilities.”

He pledged that the African Development Bank remained committed to supporting initiatives that would help the media present a more balanced and progressive portrayal of Africa and support its economic development.

Related development

In a discussion with Julie Gichuru of the Mastercard Foundation after his address, Dr Adesina said Africa was blessed with energy sources, but millions remained without electricity.

“This must change,” he said. adding that; “We cannot industrialise in the dark, we cannot develop in the dark. Our children cannot be competitive in a world of darkness,” he added.

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