Africa: Media Systems Essay

Cheap Custom Writing Service

This Africa: Media Systems Essay example is published for educational and informational purposes only. If you need a custom essay or research paper on this topic, please use our writing services. offers reliable custom essay writing services that can help you to receive high grades and impress your professors with the quality of each essay or research paper you hand in.

This entry concentrates on media systems in countries  of  Sub-Saharan  Africa.  The  Sub-Saharan media system was born in the colonial era. The use of European languages, state-biased ownership systems, and limited media freedom are among colonial media attributes that continue in Sub-Saharan Africa, a 48-country region that is huge and diverse.

The spread and access to the mass media in Sub-Saharan Africa has been a highly uneven process. Among old media, radio has achieved the best penetration owing to its affordability and adaptability. Even the largely urban  and  elitist medium of television has shown remarkable growth in Africa. The figures for print media titles published in Sub-Saharan Africa also show a marked increase in titles and the total average circulation of dailies (World Association of Newspapers 2009). Today’s rapid growth of the African media belies the fact that these mass media are recent and that they were mainly introduced during the colonial era.

Print And Radio

One of the most obvious features of Sub-Saharan African media is the way print media were introduced in different parts of the region. The press in English-speaking West Africa was the earliest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Missionaries also helped introduce newspapers in the region. By contrast to patterns in West Africa, in Anglophone Southern and Central Africa, the press was largely introduced by European settlers. The most notable newspapers at this time included the “Cape Argus,” founded in 1857. The beginnings of the press in East Africa were not different from other parts of Africa. It was largely created for its settler population.

The French colonial administration in Africa actively discouraged the development of the press in  the  colonies.  A  heavy tax  was  placed  on imported newsprint and printing machinery and in keeping with their  policy of assimilation of Africans into  French culture  they preferred  to freely circulate newspapers produced in the metropolis to their African colonies.

The introduction and organization of radio closely followed colonial political and administrative systems. The British deliberately promoted the use of local languages in an attempt to build an African audience. The French, unlike the British, who wanted to provide something of a public service to their colonies, pursued an entirely different policy and initially delayed the start of broadcasting in their colonial territories. French colonial policy of direct rule was mirrored in broadcasting, as all programming was initially French in orientation and in delivery. The Belgians left broadcasting to private individuals or religious groups. In both the French and the British colonies, radio was from the outset an arm for colonial policies.

The Television Age

The television age came to Sub-Saharan Africa in the  late  1950s, which  was  the  period  when colonial rule ended  for many countries  in the region. Elite and urban  in character, television depended on foreign programming and was initially used mainly for entertainment  purposes. Several Sub-Saharan African countries  resisted television for many years. South Africa resisted television until 1976, because of what was seen by the apartheid government as its ‘morally corruptive’ influence and  fears that  it  could  provide information that would strengthen anti-apartheid forces. However, for most countries in the region, the television age coincided with national independence, but the medium sadly remains a symbol of national status that hardly goes beyond the major African cities.

Independence And Democratization

Although colonial media were used to suppress and misinform Sub-Saharan Africans, alternative media also helped them achieve political independence in the 1960s. Post-independence media systems were close to one-party systems. In the processes of nation building, the ownership and control  of  broadcasting  was more  centralized than that of print media. On the whole, the legacy of western notions of media culture and practice is yet to  be  adequately reformed  in  order  to address the expectations of the majority of Africans, especially those living in rural Africa.

In  the  1990s, the  changing  African  media became central to the new struggle for greater political and economic independence. By 2005, most countries had opened up their broadcasting sectors after many years of state monopoly of the sector. The 1990s ushered in a boom in private, local, community, and commercial radio stations across the  regions. In general, a wave of democracy in the 1990s brought with it multipartyism and a degree of media pluralism in many Sub-Saharan African countries.

The Twenty-First-Century African Media System

From 2000 to 2006 the number of internet users in  Africa grew  by  625.8 percent.  Such  rapid growth was mainly driven by a rapid increase in mobile  phone  (cell phone)  subscribers  in  the region, making Africa the first place where mobile subscribers outnumber fixed-line subscribers.

However,  the overall picture in Sub-Saharan African countries seems to suggest that a very small group of privileged Africans have benefited. Regulatory and technological issues dominate the twenty-first-century African media system. State monopolies have been undermined by a wave of deregulation, commercialization,  and  privatization  of  broadcasting  and  telecommunications. A small but significant number of Africans is now able to receive popular radio and television content via terrestrial, satellite, cable, and internet. Most countries are taking advantage of the rapid development of new communications  technologies and  digitization. Sub-Saharan  Africa has  also  seen  a  dramatic growth in the indigenous entertainment production  industry  such as the video film sector in Nigeria, now dubbed ‘Nollywood.’ internet radio stations,  online  newspapers, and  digital music libraries are set to continue revolutionizing the Sub-Saharan African media scene. To sum up, Sub-Saharan Africa’s  emerging media system is diverse and fast growing but to a large extent is heavily influenced by its colonial legacy.


  1. Bourgault, L. M. (1995). Mass media in Sub-Saharan Africa. Bloomington, In: Indiana University Press.
  2. Fardon, R. & Furniss, G. (eds.) (2000). African broadcast cultures: Radio in transition. Oxford: James Currey.
  3. Honeyman, (2003). African regulation of satellite broadcasting in the era of convergent ICTS. in Broadcasting policy and practice in Africa. London: Article 19, pp. 71–113.
  4. Internet World Stats (2014). Internet usage statistics for Africa. At, accessed July 16, 2014.
  5. Mudhai, O. F., Tettey, W., & Banda, F. (eds.) (2009). African media and the digital public sphere. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  6. Mytton,   (1983). Mass communication  in  Africa. London: Edward Arnold.
  7. Mytton, G. (2000). Sub-Saharan surveys: From saucepan to dish-radio and TV in Africa. in R. Fardon & G. Furniss (eds.), African broadcast cultures: Radio in transition. Oxford: James Currey.
  8. Nyamnjoh, F. (2005). Africa’s media: Democracy and the politics of belonging. London: Zed Books.
  9. World Association Of Newspapers (2009). Shaping the future of the news. Paris. World Association of Newspapers and ZenithOptimedia.
  10. World Bank (2006). World Bank indicators 2006. Washington, DC: World Bank.

See also:


Always on-time


100% Confidentiality
Special offer! Get discount 10% for the first order. Promo code: cd1a428655