In her four-year career the magazine journalism postgraduate has covered the UK charity and NGO sector and now works for the Africa Report from Paris. The demand for African business news is growing, as is the demand for journalism both on and offline in the continent, she tells Journalism.co.uk in our email Q&A.
Could you tell me a little about your background in journalism and how long you've been working at The Africa Report?
[GW] I've been working as a journalist for four years, the last two spent at the Africa Report in Paris. While studying for a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism at City University London I did work experience at a UK-based newsletter called Africa Confidential. I went onto get my first job in journalism writing about the UK charity and NGO sector for Plaza Publishing (now Civil Society Media), focusing on fundraising. After two years, I left to come to Paris and work at the Africa Report.
Do you specialise in any particular areas for the Africa Report?
We are a small editorial team and use a network of journalists across Africa for our articles. This means that the articles we write in-house tend to be more pan-African and thematic than focused on particular countries. It also means we write across a whole range of areas: I write about everything from agriculture, to telecoms and Africa's exciting mobile phone revolution, to private equity as well as reviewing African books, films and music.
Is there a growing demand for coverage of African business news - both in Africa, the diaspora and beyond?
There absolutely is. African economies have been growing steadily throughout the global downturn and the IMF predicts the continent's GDP will grow 4.7 per cent in 2010 as Western economies struggle to avoid a double-dip recession. A recent, bullish report from McKinsey on Africa's Lion economies presents an upbeat prospect for Africa's future. All this brings greater demand for serious reporting of the changes going on in the African business environment, from the search for new capital flows, to China's increasingly important role on the continent, to what a new generation of African middle-class consumers will want to spend their money on.
It's important not to treat business news about Africa through a series of one-off 'good news' stories (although this does of course help), but to look at African countries as emerging economies in their own right. And you can see a number of business-news outlets doing that: the Wall Street Journal has launched an Africa section on its website, and last week the Economist has just launched a blog on Africa.
Are there certain hot topics you've been covering recently? And are there any common misconceptions you've had to face when trying to report on this area?
Earlier this year I did a piece looking at GM foods in Africa - a pretty hot topic. It's an interesting one as most governments are firmly against genetic-modification, although the scientists and seed-giants are pushing hard against the door. Set against the backdrop of how to adapt African agriculture to the challenges of climate change, it's a tricky question. We're also about to publish an investigation I've been doing on why it costs so much money to call Africa from Europe and the United States and how the network of low-cost calling cards work.
In terms of misconceptions, the most obvious one is that African business isn't worth writing about and that investors are put off by the risk of instability. Yes, there are of course issues surrounding conflict and corruption, and they do have a big part to play in Africa, but there is so much going on on the continent regardless. Africa is such an energetic, entrepreneurial place.
The Africa Report has a very good-looking website - how do you use online tools and technologies in your work? What benefits/impact have these had?
I actually manage our web presence and we're always trying to expand it and make it better. We're able to reach new, younger audiences who are ready and eager to debate our articles on Facebook and through our comment pages.
I'd say the majority of our web readers are in the diaspora, but our aim is to tap into the exploding number of Africans with access to the internet to get them to engage with our content online. As well as exclusive online content, we've been able to create interactive versions research done in the magazine - for example we have a searchable database of the top 500 companies and top 200 banks in Africa. Where the US and European media is struggling to cope with declining sales of magazines and newspapers, they're actually doing well in Africa. It makes it an exciting space to be working in.
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