On 19 September, Reuters launched their mobile-first video service Africa Journal, bringing bite-size videos that showcase ‘the best of Africa’.
The international news agency looks to publish 16 to 20 concise multimedia packages a week talking about the latest innovations and developments coming out of the continent.
This can range from a piece on a chimpanzee sanctuary in Sierra Leone, to Ethiopian technicians working on the AI humanoid Sofia, to the booming wedding sector in Nigeria.
Serena Chaudhry, editor, Africa Journal, explained that there was a lot of personal interest behind the service.
“On a personal level covering Africa properly — not in binary forms, as in Africa rising and falling — actually covering the full breadth of the continent was really important to me,” she said.
Born in London and brought up in post-apartheid South Africa, Chaudhry cut her teeth as a journalist in Johannesburg, and has been a dominant voice in African coverage since. She said, however, that her background is not the only part of her identity that helps cover the continent.
“The fact that I’m a woman helps me translate automatically and tap into some stories that might not necessarily be as easy for my male counterparts to look at.
“My multiple identities do translate into bridging the gap. I can see the story from both sides and understand what multi-faceted audiences would want to know in terms of the story”.
Yielding five languages and working on a sixth means that Chaudhry will also look at publishing Africa Journal in French and Swahili in the future. Combined with family ties to Kenya, Pakistan and India, this also helps access the diverse and vibrant pockets of Africa.
“From a professional perspective, because there is so much happening, it's the world's youngest youth market. Why wouldn’t you want to cover it?,” she asks.
Indeed, she said that the fact that half a billion mobile phone subscribers are anticipated by 2020 in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the driving forces behind the service and the ‘short and snappy’ format.
The Digital in 2018 study also shows that African internet users rose 20 percent in 2017-18.
“The idea is that we’re tapping into what else is happening on the continent, showing that African cities are like any other on the planet.
“We’ve seen such a leap in Africa towards the mobile market, even in the most rural areas we’re seeing mobile consumption and penetration is pretty high.”
Chinedu Asadu, reporter at the Nigerian independent online newspaper TheCable, said that they too are looking into multimedia stories to join the growing digital media trend.
He puts the popularity of mobile video down to affordability of mobile phones and rates, unlike in the past, saying that a smartphone can now cost as little as N10,000 (Nigerian naira), about £20.
“Even though a good number of Africans still don't have access to the internet to be able to use this service, I think the active audience on the continent will find it appealing," said Asadu.
"Most people would prefer to watch a five-minute engaging clip than read a few lines after the first paragraph.
“A service like what Reuters are bringing would enhance accessibility of news content and trigger the African audiences’ interest more on issues that concern them."
Chaudhry's mission statement 'from the streets to the boardroom' will stimulate local interest as well as drawing attention from abroad while promoting continents' development.
“The idea was not to tell an Africa that is relating to the old figureheads but it’s more related to what the youth are interested in and consuming, “ she said. "Because the youth demographic is so huge, we wanted to be sure we can cater for that market.
"If you look at the amount of investment China and India are putting into the continent, their markets are really interested in what is happening on the ground."
Chaudhry added that she is looking to build on Reuters’ long-standing ‘footprint’ as part of their broader Africa coverage strategy moving forward.
Interested to learn what do younger audiences want from news organisations? 'Getting Generation Z engaged with the news' is on the agenda for our upcoming Newsrewired conference on 7 November.
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