En­abling Africa to tell the world its own story

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Philippa Larkin

‘We have em­barked on a very unique con­tent strat­egy, whereby we part­nered with be­tween 30 to 40 con­ti­nen­tal African me­dia part­ners which we do a con­tent swop with. In essence they pro­vide copy to us, and we pro­vide them with ours. We pack­age the con­tent and then dis­trib­ute it glob­ally. That is our dis­tri­bu­tion model on a global scale... Pro­fes­sor Arthur Mu­tam­bara, the Africa Pres­i­dent of the African News Agency, ANA, and chief ex­ec­u­tive Grant Fred­er­icks open up about Africa’s first syn­di­cated mul­ti­me­dia news ser­vice.

Philippa Larkin, the con­tent editor for the busi­ness unit of In­de­pen­dent News & Me­dia and Busi­ness Re­port, in an in­ter­view yes­ter­day with Arthur Mu­tam­bara, the Pres­i­dent for Africa of the African News Agency, ANA, and ANA chief ex­ec­u­tive Grant Fred­er­icks. Larkin: I be­lieve ANA is Africa’s first syn­di­cated mul­ti­me­dia news ser­vice. Is that cor­rect?

Mu­tam­bara: ANA is a global dig­i­tal me­dia group that spe­cialises in news wire and press re­leases for South Africa, Africa and glob­ally. What is new is that we are say­ing: news, in­for­ma­tion and data about Africa for Africans and the world. Nu­anced and au­then­tic news and in­for­ma­tion. Our mis­sion is to be the go-to source for any­thing to do with Africa, ahead of all the com­peti­tors. Fred­er­icks: We have em­barked upon a very unique con­tent strat­egy, whereby we part­nered with be­tween 30 to 40 con­ti­nen­tal African me­dia part­ners which we do a con­tent swop with. In essence they then pro­vide copy to us and we pro­vide them with ours. We pack­age the con­tent and then dis­trib­ute it glob­ally. That is our dis­tri­bu­tion model on a global scale. Larkin: Has this ever been tried be­fore? Fred­er­icks: No, it hasn’t. We’re proud to say we are the first. We are the pioneers in this sec­tor. We will be em­bark­ing on some­thing much larger than what other me­dia com­pa­nies have em­barked upon in the past. We have 15 me­dia part­ner­ships con­firmed and signed. We have global sub­scribers that have signed with us, the largest sub­scrip­tion base of me­dia com­pa­nies within South Africa as we speak. Mu­tam­bara: We are say­ing we are jour­nal­ists with an African de­vel­op­ment agenda. We care about the de­vel­op­ment of Africa. Yes, there are sto­ries about wars, politics, HIV/Aids and cor­rup­tion. We will cover all this, but we will do more than that. We seek to pro­vide de­vel­op­ment sto­ries about en­trepreneur­ship, fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, and fi­nan­cial in­clu­sion. We seek to re­brand the con­ti­nent. Fred­er­icks: For far too long our African high­lights have been stolen from us as an African con­ti­nent. We do have ta­lent. We are not poor. Africans are highly in­tel­li­gent. We are very in­dus­tri­ous. We work hard. We’re fo­cused. Our ap­proach is unique as Africans. That is the mes­sage we are want­ing to get out to the world. This is what we want to tell the world – that we have ta­lent and then we ex­pose these to the global mar­ket. In that way we then at­tract in­vest­ment back into the con­ti­nent, that has ini­tially been re­moved. Larkin: That is a fan­tas­tic plan. We all want more in­vest­ment in the coun­try along (Fi­nance Min­is­ter) Pravin Gord­han’s line. We are all Team SA. Mu­tam­bara: Two more things. We are re-brand­ing the con­ti­nent as a con­ti­nent of en­trepreneur­ship, with de­vel­op­ment and high tech­nol­ogy. Sec­ondly, this ANA agenda is not rooted in char­ity, but eco­nom­ics. With au­then­tic and nu­anced news, in­for­ma­tion and data you en­able in­vestors and pol­icy-mak­ers to make the cor­rect de­ci­sions. Larkin: What you are say­ing is so spot on. Pali Le­hohla, South Africa’s Statis­ti­cian-Gen­eral and Head of Statis­tics SA, has just hosted the very first UN World Data Fo­rum this month and we have WEF Africa be­ing held in May. Africa is fi­nally com­ing into its own. Would you agree with that? Fred­er­icks: Ab­so­lutely. We are in­te­gral play­ers of a very new project, with the WEF Africa con­fer­ence fast ap­proach­ing. We will be very ac­tive part­ners in that we get the mes­sage across. Fred­er­icks: We bought the SA Press As­so­ci­a­tion (Sapa) in 2015. We ac­quired it for a sum of un­der R500 000. We have ac­quired the as­sets and staff com­ple­ment. We have in­her­ited 50 per­cent of the sub­scrip­tion base as well. What we have done is then po­si­tion our prod­uct into the global mar­ket to global in­vestors. We ba­si­cally po­si­tioned our­selves strate­gi­cally in such a way that we have at­tracted in­vest­ment which re-val­ues ANA at $1.1 bil­lion (R14.65bn). Larkin: In what time frame? Fred­er­icks: In the past year.

Also as you know, ANA is a sub­sidiary com­pany of the Sekun­jalo Group, who own var­i­ous other com­pa­nies within their sta­ble. I’m proud to say ANA has turned into one of the most prof­itable com­pa­nies in the group. Larkin: We are ex­pect­ing big things from ANA. The more con­tent the bet­ter. I also want to ask, when it comes to Brics and SADC, are you fo­cus­ing on these ar­eas? Mu­tam­bara: To sur­vive un­der glob­al­i­sa­tion and for the Brics frame­work to make any sense, South Africa must rep­re­sent Africa in Brics. Re­gional and con­ti­nen­tal in­te­gra­tion are the only sur­vival strat­egy. Only a South Africa rep­re­sent­ing Africa in the Brics group will be use­ful to Brazil, Rus­sia, In­dia and China. Scale is the lan­guage. We come in as a pan-African global news agency to drive the agenda of re­gional and con­ti­nen­tal in­te­gra­tion. To com­pete with China you need num­bers. We are work­ing very closely with the AU, SADC and Ecowas and East African com­mu­nity, so that we can un­lock me­dia value from re­gional in­te­gra­tion. Fred­er­icks: We have a part­ner­ship with Brics. We want to tell the world, we want to cre­ate a plat­form to Africa through ANA – with South African as the gate­way. Mu­tam­bara: You have heard the nar­ra­tives. “Africa is ris­ing.” “Africa is the last eco­nomic fron­tier.” “Africa has huge nat­u­ral re­source and hu­man cap­i­tal po­ten­tial.” “Africa has a unique op­por­tu­nity to leapfrog into green in­dus­tries and economies.” If all this is true, it means au­then­tic and nu­anced news, in­for­ma­tion and data about Africa is crit­i­cal to in­vestors, pol­icy-mak­ers and en­trepreneurs. Only African jour­nal­ists and African me­dia houses can pro­vide these use­ful com­modi­ties. This makes com­mer­cial sense. Fred­er­icks: There is a mis­con­cep­tion of African as un­civilised… We are a pro­gres­sive con­ti­nent. We want the world to see us that way. We are the rich­est con­ti­nent in this world with our re­sources. Mu­tam­bara: We are also talk­ing about dig­i­tal me­dia, use of ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and de­ploy­ment of in­tel­li­gent al­go­rithms in me­dia. We can take ad­van­tage of high tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions to de­velop and de­ploy new me­dia busi­ness mod­els. Larkin: Yes, we have seen busi­ness mod­els change with tech­nol­ogy. What is your out­look? Fred­er­icks: As chief ex­ec­u­tive I am ex­cited to know we have ex­panded not only into Africa, but we have strate­gic satel­lite branches in Europe, New York, the eastern bloc and the Mid­dle East. We are ex­pand­ing pro­gres­sively. We want to own the world. The bot­tom line is we are in­volved in our com­mu­ni­ties. We get our hands dirty to get ac­cu­rate and de­tailed con­tent to the world us­ing tech­nol­ogy. Mu­tam­bara: Us­ing ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tions and in­ter­ven­tions we are en­abling Africans to tell their sto­ries, thus en­abling them to be masters of the African nar­ra­tive.

PHOTO: SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI

A fo­cus on au­then­tic and nu­anced news: ANA chief ex­ec­u­tive Grant Fred­er­icks and Arthur Mu­tam­bara, ANA pres­i­dent for Africa.

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