Celebrating the Tenth Annual Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards

By Nick Blazquez, President Africa, Turkey, Russia, Central and Eastern Europe, Diageo plc

Celebrating the Tenth Annual Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards

On Wednesday, we celebrated the tenth annual Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards. Looking back over the last decade of the Awards, I am extremely pleased at how they have helped to recognise how great business journalism can showcase successes, highlight challenges and support broad economic growth within Africa. A strong independent media have a critical role to play in attracting investment and holding public and private institutions to account.

When we launched the Awards, we wanted to balance the inconsistent perceptions of Africa, which our research showed were deterring investors from exploring opportunities on the continent. International reporting on Africa always seemed to tell the same reductive tales of war, famine, corruption and disease.

Over the lifetime of the Awards, perceptions of Africa’s prospects have changed dramatically. The business media in Africa and beyond have certainly played their part in helping investors understand the upsides and downsides of operating in Africa. Nowadays, I am happy to say, the balance is being redressed with stories highlighting, along with the challenges, the upward trends in development and increased political and economic stability. However, the most encouraging sign, I believe, is that an increasing amount of quality reporting on Africa is now being carried out by Africa’s own media – when the Awards were first launched, we received just 35 entries, mainly from the UK-based media. Now, we regularly receive over 1000 entries from across Africa and all around the world. Our winners on Wednesday included Nigeria’s Broad Street Journal and Ghana’s ETV, as well as specialist pan-African media titles African Business and This is Africa.

Africa’s media can now offer the kind of unparalleled insight into a country’s business landscape that is vital for sustainable investment. If you are a business owner interested in setting up a new company or finding a partner on the continent, where do you look for information? What is a grass-roots source of insight into a country’s business environment, its risks and opportunities, and its political climate? I believe that Africa’s media can and should contribute to that insight – informing, enlightening, challenging and, hopefully, entertaining. When I travel to our businesses across Africa, I always make sure I pick up a copy of titles like Business Day in Nigeria, Business Daily in Kenya, and South Africa’s Financial Mail. Papers like these together with business programming among local broadcast and radio demonstrate that quality business reporting in Africa is increasingly being done – and done well – by on-the-ground reporters with local insights.

However, there remains work to be done to ensure that this burgeoning trend within African journalism is sustainable. While the continent is home to many skilled and dedicated reporters, it is still the case that many journalists struggle to do their jobs effectively because of a lack of funding and training. Investigative reporting requires a substantial investment of time and resources, as well as a whole array of skills, ranging from a thorough understanding of legal and policy issues to advanced computing skills and financial modelling. Continued investment on the part of training bodies and media houses is necessary to equip journalists with the skills they need.

Now, after ten years of the Diageo Africa Business Reporting Awards, it is time to look ahead to the future. I believe that Africa will no longer be defined as one homogenous landmass with high barriers to entry, but a diverse range of opportunities and challenges, fuelled by innovation and entrepreneurialism and creating a mix of complexity and variety. These individual stories will need to be told.

I also believe that Africa’s narrative over the next ten years will be defined and articulated by Africans themselves. Where it is supported by the right levels of education, access to technology and greater liberty to express oneself freely, we are likely to see a decade where Africa’s voice will be increasingly heard.

At Diageo, therefore, we remain committed to building a more enabling business environment in Africa and we hope that the very many people who have supported the Awards over the last decade will continue to join us in promoting Africa’s economic development and the vital role played by its media going forward.

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