Africa and the Media
The advent of new technologies is usually accompanied by several opportunities and challenges. It is, however, important to address these complexities with social theories. This chapter employs the instrument of theorization within the context of the larger media and communication theories. The subject of mediated development defines the outlook of this chapter because it includes the role of the media in tackling current development challenges, particularly in relation to open governance and participatory democracies in places like Benin, Tanzania and Nigeria and the prospects these moves signal for Africa’s development. While this chapter is not a treatise on media theories, attention will be focused on three media and communication theories, namely, development communication theory, social responsibility theory and democratization-democratic-participant media theory. Social media is important to Africa’s development agenda, largely as a result of the rapid fall in the cost of internet bandwidth and the affordability of mobile phones which have put this invention within reach of almost everyone across economic strata. East African countries that have experimented with mobile money like the M-Pesa have seen some level of economic stimulation, particularly with regard to the previously unreached people in rural communities. The chapter looks at selected cases showcasing the impact of these processes on rural development. The FrontlineSMS and the Ushahidi projects have helped to propagate community involvement and participation in democratic processes through the use of SMS and crowdmapping technologies. The power of the media in this regard has prompted several dictatorial governments, including Zimbabwe, Congo, and Uganda, to attempt to stifle the internet. Citizens now aggregate election results using several crowdsourcing tools, thereby wresting power away from the leaders who once unilaterally controlled governance. This further promotes increased citizen intervention in politics and policy decision-making. This chapter also examines some problems portended by the media. Africans have embraced the media, especially social media, but governments are still skeptical about their use; they are still holding on to the old methods of media control. Consequently, several attempts by African governments to promulgate laws seeking to control media will be examined. In addition, this chapter focuses on several problems associated with the media; there are ready examples of how the media have been used in the past, especially radio, in spreading violence in places like Rwanda and Ethiopia where people were literally egged on to cut down members of opposition ethnic groups.
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