Global Media Index Reveals Gaps in Africa Coverage by Leading News Outlets

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Professor Adam Haupt, Director of Media Studies

The Centre for Film and Media Studies at the Univeristy of Cape Town in South Africa; Africa No Filter, a non-profit organization that works to challenge and change harmful narratives about Africa; and The Africa Center in New York, a nonprofit, multidisciplinary institution that provides a gateway for engagement with contemporary Africa, have issued a report that highlights significant shortcomings in how major international news outlets cover the continent.

Titled “Global Media Index for Africa 2024,” which assessed the performance of 20 leading global media organizations, found that while some progress has been made, substantial improvements are still needed to achieve a balanced and diverse portrayal of Africa.

The findings of the Global Media Index for Africa underscore the need for global media to reassess and improve their reporting strategies. The persistent focus on negative stereotypes not only misrepresents the realities of the continent but also impacts investment, tourism, and global policy towards Africa.

The report finds that the average score for all 20 media outlets was 52.55 out of 100, indicating a “medium” level of performance. The Guardian topped the index with a score of 63, whereas The Washington Post ranked lowest with a score of 47.

On diversity of topics, the report finding shows that despite efforts to broaden the scope of stories, the coverage remains predominantly focused on negative topics such as conflict, poverty, and corruption. The Guardian scored the highest in this category but still managed only 57 out of 100, suggesting a narrow range of topics being covered.

The study found a lack of diversity in the voices represented in the news stories as many reports continued to rely heavily on male and Western experts, with insufficient representation of local African voices. This indicator showed low performance across all media outlets, reflecting a continued bias in source selection.

AFP and Reuters were notable for their broad geographical coverage, with AFP ranking highest in this category. However, overall, many outlets failed to provide comprehensive coverage across the 55 African countries.

There was a relatively higher score for depth of coverage, indicating that some outlets are providing more context and balanced reporting. However, this was not enough to offset the deficiencies in other areas.

To address the issues it identified, the report makes a number of recommendations: that media outlets should strive to cover a wider range of topics, including positive developments and innovations in Africa; they should make efforts to include a broader spectrum of voices, particularly from within the African continent; and that more comprehensive coverage of different African countries is necessary to provide a fuller picture of the continent.

Another recommendation the report made is that continual improvement in providing context and balance in stories by the media outlets will help counteract superficial and stereotyped narratives.

The Global Media Index for Africa aims to serve as a regular “health check” for how Africa is framed in the media, promoting a more just and fair representation of the continent.

Download the Global Media Index for Africa 2024.