CNBC plans to launch Africa’s first business TV channel next year as rising investment on the poorest continent buoys demand for news that goes beyond the media’s staple diet of war, famine and disease.
CNBC Africa will launch in May 2007, employing 40 journalists in four countries to cover financial markets.
“Africa offers enormous opportunities,” Dubai-based CNBC Africa Chairman Zafar Siddiqi told Reuters in a telephone interview on Thursday. “We are coming into a new era of transparency, of democratic and economic reform, and it’s very exciting.”
Siddiqi said he expected to see more international media companies bolster their Africa output as investment grows, fuelled by improved political stability, booming demand for Africa’s commodities and huge interest from China.
“In the past all the stories you had were wars and famines,” he said. “I think people will look at Africa very differently in the next 2-5 years — in a much more positive tone.”
Some Western news organisations — particularly U.S. and British newspapers — have scaled back their coverage of Africa as cost cuts bite and readers grow inured to endless tales of poverty and woe.
But interest from the rest of the world seems to be on the rise. Arabic television station Al Jazeera opened five new bureaus on the continent for its English-speaking channel, which launched this week with a mandate to challenge dominant Western perspectives.
Chinese media companies have beefed up their presence on the continent and Salim Amin, the son of a legendary Kenyan photo-journalist and cameraman, hopes to launch a pan-African news network run by Africans for Africans by the end of 2007.
CNBC Africa will be headquartered in Johannesburg, the financial heart of Africa’s economic giant South Africa, and will run bureaux in Cape Town, Lagos, Abuja, Gaborone and Nairobi.
A consortium of Middle Eastern investors would provide 70 percent of the $21 million start-up costs and South Africa’s Industrial Development Corporation would fund the rest.
Siddiqi said the channel would not push a political agenda, and he hoped to employ as many Africans as possible.
The channel will feature 8 hours of local content a day with programs from CNBC in Europe, the United States and Asia filling in the gaps. The CNBC cable network is owned by NBC Universal, a unit of General Electric Co.