The Sub-Saharan African Media Landscape – Then, Now and in the Future August 2014

Telecoms and Internet Reports

Document type: Report
Availability: Available
Publication date: 29 August 2014
Number of pages: 50

Price: Free

1. The Sub-Saharan African Media Landscape – Then, Now and in the Future

August 2014


Sub-Saharan Africa is the cockpit for change in terms of the global digital divide and changing media use; in little over a decade it has gone from being largely unconnected to the internet to having millions of people using it. Because media have been relatively undeveloped—for a host of reasons, including education, income, and lack of access to electricity—the impact of the digital changes have and may continue to be somewhat more dramatic than in countries where traditional media have been much better established.

Surveys and group research provide a snapshot of what’s happening but offer
little guidance as to what people will do in the future. Therefore this report that summarizes the research has been provided to do two things: firstly, to offer a look back at how things have changed in terms of media and communications behaviors; and secondly, to offer some informed opinions about what past trends might mean for future behavior.

There are two kinds of future predictions, one of which is a great deal easier than the other. With the first kind of prediction it’s possible to use certain kinds of underlying logics in behavior and be fairly accurate. For example, as the cost of Internet became cheaper for individual users (in Sub-Saharan Africa) on their phone, more people started to use the Internet for the first time. It was possible to say that this would happen before it actually happened.

The second kind of change is discontinuous: there are no or few clues in existing behavior to guide predictions about what might happen. For example, few could have predicted five years before it happened, the role of social media in the events surrounding the Arab Spring. So the future predictions in this report are a combination of looking at ways in which the underlying logics – whether driven by social or economic forces – are likely to play out and some straightforward, creative guesses that are relevant to development agencies wanting to communicate in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This report has three main sections:

Section 1 - Trends Affecting Media and Communication delivery in Sub-Saharan Africa: This section looks at five key trends that have affected how Africans media is delivered in Sub-Saharan Africa: the rise of Social Media; the growth of Feature and Smart phone ownership and other devices; the liberalization of media; different types of audiences – mass media and niche audiences; and News – Online and Print.

Section 2 - Trends Affecting Media and Communications Use in Sub-Saharan African countries: This section has two themes: firstly, recurring patterns of behavior found across all countries in one form or another; and secondly, whether it is possible to put Sub-Saharan African countries on a spectrum that will be helpful for understanding how media behavior develops. There are five country case studies: Ghana; Kenya; Nigeria; Senegal; and Tanzania.

Section 3 - Key Trends that will Affect African Communications and Media Over the Next Five Years: This section looks at what might happen over the next five years and gives examples of how this might affect the media landscape.

Scattered through this narrative are a series of mini case studies that shine a spotlight on different ways of communicating in Sub-Saharan Africa, using both traditional and new media.

This report draws upon research carried out in 2013 and funded by the New Venture Fund. It is designed to help NGOs and civil society organisations in Sub-Saharan Africa understand the changing media landscape and help them improve how they communicate. The research had three main elements:

  1. Three national representative samples surveys (Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania) and a focused sub-regional survey that was conducted in Northern Nigeria.

  2. Five surveys of feature phone users in five countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa).

  3. One-to-one and focus group interviews in four countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Senegal and Tanzania).

We would like to say thank you to Intermedia’s Audiencescapes and Research
ICT Africa, both of whom have been providing communications research data for development organisations over several years. We hope that we have been able to build on the solid foundations that they have laid.

Price: Free