Social Sciences and Humanity Studies Academic Blog

Africa Media System

Posted in assignment by Shekhar on November 8, 2008


Africa, the second largest continent of the seven continents has its most of the land portion in the equatorial region. Its total land area occupies about 23 percent of the total land of the earth.

Indian Ocean lies at east, Atlantic Ocean at the west while Mediterranean Sea lies in the north. Africa is connected to Asia by Senai Peninsula. Vast portion of the continent is occupied by The Sahara Desert, the largest desert of the earth.

Beside geographical diversity, Africa consist its population from diverse ethnic and cultural background. Ancient Egypt, one of the world first great civilizations, arose 5000 years ago in the northern Africa. During last 500 years, virtually all portion of Africa was colonized by European emperor. Millions of African were sent as slaves to various colonial plantations like South America, North America to work. It was only between 1960s and 1970s the most of the African countries got independence <!–more–>for British colonialism. African has very low level of infrastructure in the various sectors like education, roads, transportation and communication technology. Still the economic status of the major African has not increased in considerable rate though we can see very few African countries like South Africa achieving the highest level of developed infrastructures, ranging from sky-scraper to one of the strongest internet framework of world.

There are 53 different African countries, including the 47 nations of the mainland and the 6 surrounding island nations. The continent is commonly divided along the lines of the Sahara, the world’s largest desert. The countries north of the Sahara make up the region of North Africa, while the region south of the desert is known as sub-Saharan Africa.

North Africa : It consists of the countries of Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, and Tunisia.

Sub-Saharan Africa is generally subdivided into the regions of West Africa, East Africa, Central Africa, and southern Africa.

West Africa : it consists of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Togo.

East Africa : it consists of Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Central Africa : it consists of Angola, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, and Zambia.

Southern Africa : it consists of Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. The island nations located in the Indian Ocean are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles.

People and Migration:

Its population is 13 percent of the total population of the world. The most populous countries are Nigeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The most widely spoken indigenous African language is Swahili, spoken by nearly 50 million Africans, followed by Hausa and Yoruba, each with more than 20 million speakers. The use of European languages has spread across the continent since the dawn of colonialism.

Africa is one of the continents who suffers from the decade long civil war and domestic violence, so people migrated from one place to save their life to the place where there life was ensured peace and harmony. Migration is common phenomenon among African people. Initially there used to be huge migration in the search of agricultural land and suitable habitation but nowadays many people migrate to African not only to fulfill their basic needs but also in the search of better social and economic prospects. Some people migrate back and forth between cities to cope with the environmental extremity.

About 30 percent of the world refugees survive in the Africa alone. People generally flee turmoil in their home countries and become refugees in adjacent countries. Recent examples include southern Sudanese fleeing to Kenya, and Rwandans fleeing to Tanzania and the DRC. In some cases, turmoil grows worse in the nation harboring refugees, so the two countries literally exchange refugees. This happened in the late 20th century between Ethiopia and Somalia, and between Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Political system in Africa

Pre-colonial period:

In most of the African countries, the government enjoys the full authority over its citizen and not-state forces. Usually in other parts of the world the law doesn’t changes with the change in the leadership but African governments as having ultimate power, with no institutions to check on them, also has a major impact on the legal forces. In Africa, the stability of legal forces does not exist, with laws dependent on however is in power at the time. During pre-colonial period , African countries were politically divided into centralized city-states and decentralized city-state.

Centralized city-state: The king used to have absolute power and king’s power was often based on his ability to collect revenue and tribute, usually through the control of trade, and to control and use an army to defend his sovereignty.. All the legislative, executive and judicial procedures were carried out by the advisors, counselors nominated by the king. For example the king of independent African states such as Mansa Musa of Mali and Sonni Ali of Songhay, had near absolute power

Decentralized city-state: Various villages and cities enjoys autonomous power. For example Igbo speaking peoples living in the south eastern part of contemporary Nigeria had such governance system. Head of each villages and it’s selected members run the administration and the criminal cases. In addition to village based council of elders, there were religious organizations, structures of kinship ties – lineage groups, and secret societies that provided regulations which governed people’s lives. These organizations guaranteed that no one group or institutions gained too much power–a system of checks and balances.

Post colonial period:

Since colonial period African countries have been frequently suffering from political instability, corruption, civil war, violence and authoritarianism. Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Côte d’Ivoire are the countries where human rights violations have been reported in recent times . Vast countries have republican system of government which sustain under some form of presidential system of rule while some of them have been able to sustain the democratic system of rule after passing through the series of coups and military dictatorship. During 1970s and 1980s the military dictators were perceived as the only rulers to maintain the stability of the government. During 1960s and 1980s Africa had undergone 17 coups and 13 presidential assassinations.

Cold war between United states and Soviet union as well the policies of International Monetary Fund (IMF) had great role in the instability of Africa. After African countries got independence from European-colonialism, they were greatly compelled to align with one of the great superpowers, either US or Soviet Union. Mainly Northern African countries aligned with the Soviet Union while central and Southern Africa were supported by the United States and France. During 1970s, the newly independent states like Angola and Mozambique got aligned with Soviet Union aid and got military dictatorship.


The African Union (AU) is a federation consisting of all of Africa’s states except Morocco. The union was formed, with Addis Ababa as its headquarters, on 26 June 2001. In July 2004, the African Union’s Pan-African Parliament (PAP) was relocated to Midrand, in South Africa, but the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights remained in Addis Ababa. The African Union has a parliamentary government, known as the African Union Government, consisting of legislative, judicial and executive organs, and led by the African Union President and Head of State, who is also the President of the Pan African Parliament. A person becomes AU President by being elected to the PAP, and subsequently gaining majority support in the PAP.

President Gertrude Ibengwe Mongella is the Head of State and Chief of Government of the African Union, by virtue of the fact that she is the President of the Pan African Parliament.

Economy of Africa:

Although it has abundant natural resources, Africa remains the world’s poorest and most underdeveloped continent, due largely to the effects of: corporate exploitation, tropical diseases, the slave trade, corrupt governments, failed central planning, the international trade regime and geopolitics; as well as widespread human rights violations, the negative effects of colonialism, despotism, illiteracy, superstition, tribal and military conflict (ranging from war and civil war to guerrilla warfare to genocide). According to the United Nations‘ Human Development Report in 2003, the bottom 25 ranked nations (151st to 175th) were all African nations.

Some areas, notably Mauritius, Botswana and South Africa, have experienced economic success. The latter has a wealth of natural resources, being the world’s leading producer of both gold and diamonds, and having a well-established legal system.

Media in Africa:

The African mass media system, despite its growth, faces age-old problems stemming from poor ownership structure, a weak financial base, low quality staff (particularly journalists), lack of access to information, and conflict with authorities. Not to forget that Africa still have Indigenous communication systems to dialogue, inform, educate, and solve social conflicts. Rural residents who constitute the majority of the continent’s population use traditional means to disseminate information for example a town crier walks through the village at night striking his gong to summon villagers to community activity; a drum beat communicates death, imminent invasion, or the spread of an epidemic; and the lyrics in publicly performed songs aim to reduce stress and help workers improve their ethic

Recently Mass media in Africa have undergone tremendous changes in the last decade. The monopoly by government has been broken. Radio and television are improving and are gradually becoming powerful instruments for public information and education. However, despite progress made, mass media in Africa remains constrained by acute problems including a lack of financial, human and material resources.

As a result of democracy movement during 1990s, the monopoly of media by government has been broken, except some countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Somalia etc. television channel and fm radio are flourishing in great degree. Ten years ago there used to be just a single nations daily in the west Africa owned by government itself and other few weeklies and monthly privately owned surviving difficultly. But today in city like Contou, Benin there are more than 8 national dailies and every year there occur a new title in the street. Radio is still considered as the traditional system of disseminating information. But with the establishment of private radio stations have increased it coverage and plurality of information access. Rural and community radio stations are launching various programmed for public education and public awareness related to health, domestic stuff and others

Media system in Ghana:

It operates a system in which the mass media are both actors and facilitators. Ghana has a democratically elected government headed by a President and has 230-member multi-party Parliament with a very strong Opposition since 1992. It has an independent judiciary and other independent constitutional bodies

– Electoral Commission

– Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice

— National Media Commission

The history and development of the mass media in Ghana are inextricably linked to the country’s political history.

Under colonialism, the newspaper was introduced and used more as a political tool to link the centre to the periphery than as a tool for the dissemination of information. During the struggle for independence, newspapers were used to organise and galvanise the people to fight to liberate the country from colonialism. Immediately after independence, they became tools for political mobilisation, organisation and education, and weapons for the total liberation of Africa, but later used as tools for suppressing protestor.

Media system in Nigeria:

Nigeria , under the rule of Late general Sana Abachi, newspaper are struggling for the full freedom and absence of any censorship against the authorities. Beside that most of the newspapers are politically influenced, personally oriented and not aimed for national development.

British colonial rulers introduced a trilingual newspaper around 1932 called Northern Provinces. It was 22 pages and published four times a year and sold at half a penny . This newspaper was a periodical reports mainly new colonial policies and news items about colonial administration activities.

New Nigerian is the daily English national daily of Nigeria owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria. After independence and its aftermath, several radio and television stations were established by the then State Governments. By 1977 all the Television stations in the states (both north and South) were taken over by the Federal Military Government under General Obasanjo to form the National Television Authority (NTA). The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) is the nation’s body that regulates and monitor the broadcast media. It is empowered among other things to regulate, monitor and control broadcasting in Nigeria. It is also responsible for issuing licenses for the establishment of all broadcast outfits in the country.

A number of programmes are aired in the Radio and Television Stations most of which are government oriented.

Hausa culture as they incorporate new styles in their films. The issue of dances and songs is a major bone of contention as the theme of the films. Most recently (Just last December 2000, the state government has withdrawn the licenses of all producers and distributors of Hausa Home Videos in the State. The statement from the government indicates that guidelines are been drawn up. What is likely going to happen is that the films are going to be censored from now on. Our only hope is that the government will be cautious in Interfering in the industry. It has great potentials for change. The industry is dominated by youth so the level of modernization is great.


At this point, it is very evident that Africa needs nothing more than a better and more democratic media system for its growth and development. The current structure of independent and government-owned media are not appropriate for the African to lead in the field of media. It is also clear that African media had gone through much struggle to gain the present state of media freedom but the negative impact like increasing domestic violence and creating political influence though media bias can’t be ignored anymore. Their negligence and outright compromise in reporting news related to development, governance, debt and human right violations have kept Africa in the dark. Only an African press genuinely committed to the freedom of the media, respect for human rights, respect for people’s welfare and development can bridge the gap and sail Africa to the much desired promise land. A Better Media. A Better Africa.









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