Enabling Africa to tell the world its own story
‘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.
A focus on authentic and nuanced news: ANA chief executive Grant Fredericks and Arthur Mutambara, ANA president for Africa.