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Bloomberg and Africa’s information brokerage chain

By Leo  Nwokoji

A quiet revolution is crystallizing in African journalism profession. Soon, scripts written by Bloomberg –trained journalists will commence a classic display of superiority in flow, finesse and finishing, all founded upon the solid rock of evidence –based data.

A concerned American philanthropist, Michael R.Bloomberg , 108th Mayor of New York, who believes that “reliable data and financial analysis bring transparency to markets and promote sound economic development” and that it is capable of “steadying African economic footsteps on the pathway of growth and opportunity creations”, have stepped into the ring, just to up-the-ante of financial journalism in Africa. It is also our conviction, a conviction founded on history that through this programme, he will break into the seeming impregnable world of African Business information market.  With an eye on credible business information in African, Bloomberg is stopping at nothing in ensuring that the average African journalist drops their phobia for business figures and take a bold emersion into complex financial analysis and credible financial reporting based on facts and reliable data ,soundly sorted data , dexterically analyzed , and professionally reported.

To realize this dream, M. Bloomberg launched a media initiative for Africa on February 3, 2014. With $10million, he initiated commitment to “support Pan-African Business and Financial journalism and to advance transparency, accountability and governance on the continent of Africa. The initial focus of the $10m is Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. The program is already up and running, “providing cross disciplinary education programmes and mid-career fellowships and is succeeding in increasing  the number of highly-trained business and financial journalists, and convening  Pan African forums that examine worldwide media best practices and support research  that stimulate  media innovations “. In Kenya, BB is partnering the preeminent faculties from University of Nairobi’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Strathmore Business school, the University of Lagos, Department of Mass Communications and Pan-Atlantic University’s Lagos Business School in Nigeria and then with Rhodes University‘s School of Journalism and Media Studies and the University of Pretoria ‘s Gordon Institute of Business Science in South Africa.

For long, Africa has lacked reliable statistical data, in-fact they had abdicated their past and allowed some supposed foreign scholars who could barely tell whether Africa is a country or a continent, to write their history for them. This lack of reliable data explains the rudderlessness of African economic history, and reckless leadership style prevailing in many African countries. Take for instance, the MO Ibrahim Foundation has been laboring to raise African leadership standard for the past ten years. It is noteworthy that reliable data is the index upon which choice of winners of that leadership initiative are made.

But Dr. Abdalla Hamdok, UNECA acting secretary designate had this to say about African data “In 2007, the first IIAG included only 28 sources of data, of which only one  was Africa based. Today the index includes 34- data sources, with four African sources contributing about 17 percent of the total data”.  As I write this piece, several African countries have not conducted a population head count for the past ten years. How do they go to polls to change government, how do they determine the income per head, plan taxes and other human related statistics? Yet some of them have even dared an attempt towards poverty reduction. One wonders the basis of such effort.

We merely estimate, extrapolate and interpolate and there we go and at the end of it throw up two hands on our heads and wonder why the economy has not collapsed or why tested and proven economic theories refuse to work in our clime. The results are here with us today. Decay, deterioration, diseases and death are regular features of most of these countries. It is becoming too obvious to ignore. Perhaps, the concern for quality data, informed the convening of African statistic day with the theme “Strengthening economic statistics for regional integration, structural transformation and sustainable development”. This is deductible from the keynote address delivered by Minister of Economic Planning, Senator Udo Udoma. In it,  he harped on the need for quality data as a planning tool. “In order to get Nigeria out of the economic situation we inherited, we need to plan and in order to plan; we need statistics as you cannot plan without accurate statistics. To African journalists, the BMIA is a great act of philanthropy. But a cursory enquiry would want to know why a 21st century capitalist would want to put $10m upon the waters and watch it being washed away, by the tides.

Indeed, Africa is too large an emerging market to be ignored, misreported or underreported. It is too large a market to be ignored by any forward–looking business person. The scramble for African market is on and hotly so. According to African Business Magazine “The international investor community is hungry for information on African countries, regions and companies as the continent gets increasingly sucked into the global market.”  When such information becomes accessible, the next huddle to cross would be the reliability of such information. It, therefore, behooves the information brokerage business chain, like Bloomberg, Reuters, MO Ibrahim Foundation etc, to proactively ensure that future market is founded on authentic information and BB is working towards a preferred and foremost position in this industry in Africa.

But unlike the struggle for territorial economic control by early colonialists, the struggle is presently centered on Business interest.  The difference now is that those that want to catch the cow of the African future businesses are assisting in clearing the ground for its cultivation, still using the labour, brain and resources of indigenes to promote their business interest, while at the same time, positioning themselves for the resultant bounty harvest,  only bidding it’s time to materialize. When it happens, we will be the ones crying wolf and philosophizing on how they underdeveloped us. But they, actually, proactively set up the business trap, which caught up with us, when we became hungry for the baits we assisted in preparing

Nwokoji is on the staff of The SUN

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