Founder and Chairman of media giant APO Group Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard says it is absolutely crucial that an African focused international news channel is set up.
And Mr Pompigne-Mognard has warned that Africa’s rising youth unemployment poses a great risk to stability on the continent.
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard, a Gabonese born Journalist founded APO Group in 2007 which has now risen to become the leading media consulting firm and press release distribution service in Africa and the Middle East.
The APO Group employs around 80 people across its offices in Switzerland, Dubai, Senegal and Hong Kong.
Admitting that creating a pan African news channel would be difficult to accomplish, Mr. Pompigne-Mognard remained hopeful that conversation around the need for such a channel could ignite stakeholders to explore the possibilities.
In a wide ranging interview, Mr. Pompigne-Mognard also cautioned African governments against passing legislation that seeks to stifle online media
He also appealed to authorities to promote investments that result in job creation adding that the rising joblessness among the youth on the continent is worrying.
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard said in an interview in Lusaka recently that the growing demand for African continent across the globe should prompt the setting up of an African focused international news channel that could rivals the likes of CNN and Aljazeera.
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard sat down for an interview with our Correspondent in Lusaka during his brief visit to Zambia.
Below is the verbatim of the interview.
LT: Let’s discuss the coverage of Africa in the global press, would you say there has been some change in the way the African narrative is being told globally?
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: Yes, there has been some change but I am not sure if it is positive change in the sense that it could appear positive in the first sight because for instance back in 2005 and it was about the same time I created APO because at the time, the major coverage was mainly about hunger and poverty and it was mainly conveyed by the international media and that was the main reason because I wanted to make African voices audible on the international stage.
So we have moved from a certain level of noise and that noise produced content by the international media and it was mainly negative and now suddenly the interest of the international media has changed. So they are interested so there is more volume of content produced about Africa, for instance, CNN has six programmes dedicated to Africa but I am not sure it’s the solution. It’s another kind of pain, I am not sure that content or more volume of content is much better and I think the problem is quite simple, it is still the international media talking about Africa and it’s not Africa talking about Africa. It’s an evolution, it was bad but it’s not good now.
LT: How then do we get more African content generated by African Journalists themselves?
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: It’s not about the volume of content but about the distribution of content. For instance, I was talking about the international media, they are not international media because when you say international media then you put a spoon of objectivity like the International Criminal Court. What they are infact is national media with an international geographical coverage and that is different. But when you say international media, then all of a sudden you assume that they don’t have any bias. We are talking about CNN, we are talking about Aljazeera, really, they don’t have any bias?
And we do not have that to fight that. We don’t have an African owned news channel. They are flooding us with that content and we don’t have a way to reciprocate. Honestly, as long as the international media will have the ability to speak louder in terms of reach about Africa than about the Africans themselves, we will have a problem.
LT: Would you then prescribe that maybe time has come for an African based, African focused international news channel?
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: Absolutely, Absolutely, and off course but I don’t see that coming. I was recently in Dakar Senegal speaking to a group of students and one jumped up and said Africa should create a Pan-African news channel and Senegal is interesting because there was a time when it was the Headquarters of something called PANA Press, a pan Africa news agency. Does anyone know what happened to PANA Press? And remember, PANA Press was a creation of the African Union Commission to create that voice which will not only share information intra Africa but outside. And they failed lamentably and there are now a few private agencies trying but we don’t have a truly pan African news agency and you know why, Africa is 52 countries and everything in Africa is difficult. But if we continue this discussion for an hour, you or me will pronounce the word colonization. You have BBC opening its biggest office outside the UK, not in Beijing, not Washington but in Nairobi with an investment of 370 million, you have Euro News creating African news, you have CNN creating six programmes about Africa, you have Huffington Post creating Huffington Post Tunisia and Morocco, so you have many news brands coming here, why do you think they are coming? Everything here is initiated about the data about the demographic of the continent. According to the World Bank, African population will double by 2015, so moving from 1.2 to 2.4 billion and according to the UN Demographic Report, Africa will be 40 percent of all humanity by 2030.
So if you are a multinational company, you have no choice but to go to Africa. Africa is becoming increasingly sexy. Look at the NBA, they are investing in Africa. There are so many international media companies investing in Africa. According to IPSOS, in Nigeria, the middle class is starting to spend more time watching international media than local media. If that trend continues, in five years, and you tell the CEO of a multinational company with 5 million Euro budget to spend on advertisement, you have a choice either to spend the entire budget on one channel like CNN or spread it across 50 local news channels which may not be able to provide with media monitoring because they are not digitalised and you may have to negotiate five different contracts. Where do you think the CEO will place his adverts? What do you think will then happen to the African media landscape? It means the African media will not have the money to digitalise and fund the new model to monetarize the subscription and won’t have the money to keep the talent and will lose the battle of content.
If that scenario persists, you come back after 10 years, the African media landscape has completely depreciated. As they say in France, the fat guy will grow thinner and the thin guy will die. Now this is just one aspect of financial, what happens in a country where majority of its children are learning about what is happening in their own countries via international media, now that is a problem of sovereignty. Now how do you fix it, I don’t know but maybe we need to start doing African flavoured programmes and stop mimicking these western programming.
LT: How crucial is the improvement of the overall African governance credentials in its quest to attain social and economic development?
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: This is key. I feel old discussing this issue now because 15 years ago I had a discussion with the then President of the African Development Bank Dr Kaberuka. Is it going better? To me it’s not obvious but my gut feeling overall is that I don’t see any major improvements but again this is linked to the fact that Africa has 52 countries. Governance is critical to FDI but is also critical for two bold reasons related to demography but by 2015, most of the population will be between 5 and 25, for instance in Uganda, 77 percent of the population is below 30, Uganda is a young country. I truly believe that when a country with have a volume of youth, men in power will not be able to manipulate the constitutions, youths need change, I am hoping that with a younger population will bring that wind of change in most countries and that is where the FDI comes in to give jobs to the youths. I cannot imagine an African continent with double the number of people without employment and the media has a critical role to play in creating spaces for the civil society and to the growth of democracy.
LT: There is some conversation going on in Zambia about how do we regulate the media, with the coming in of Fake News mainly peddled through online platforms, Governments even some Tech companies are now calling on governments to help with some kind of regulation of social media, in Zambia we have historically practiced our Journalism through self-regulation but government seems to prefer statutory regulation, how do you think governments should handle the issue of regulating the media with respect to social media?
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: What is important is not to have media regulation through the statue on the pretext of fighting Fake News. In a non-bias, non-agenda environment, regulation is good, regulation gives guarantee to everybody. Media should be able to regulate itself, create a body that can regulate the media and just like the Doctors in France, the court is the court of your Peers and that doesn’t mean that there is no recourse to the law. You don’t government to use that as a pretext to control, there should be a big different between regulating and controlling. There must be some minimum level of control because tomorrow, you don’t want a former Baker to create a news website just like tomorrow you don’t want me to just wake up and become a Dentist.
LT: Thank you for your time and enjoy your stay in Zambia
Mr. Pompigne-Mognard: Welcome