How financial literacy can be used to narrate Africa’s success stories and advance socio-economic growth
Dr. Samuel Siringi
In Kenya business journalism is essential in the formulation, shaping and distribution of knowledge. As policy makers constantly seek ways to make policies more relevant and effective, the business media provide a platform to stimulate dialogue between all interested parties to better inform policy formulation and implementation for disseminating critical information to all relevant stakeholders. In this way, business journalists serve as watchdogs over policymakers and decision-makers. Business journalism is therefore one of the main shapers and influencers of national policy.
To begin with building media capacity on finance is key. Business journalism is arguably one of the most important aspects of media reporting. On a global scale, the financial crisis in 2008 was a remainder of the importance of financial and business journalism. Failure by media, specifically business media, to report on illegal or unethical actions carried out by big corporations legitimises such actions and can ultimately have sever long term effects on an economy, national or global.
It also placed more responsibility on the media and raised a set of profound questions as to the quality of reporting. The question is whether reporters knew it was coming or indeed whether the journalists were equipped to deal with the continuing complex story, especially where sophisticated products are involved.
It is imperative that the media, being participants in the dissemination of business news, be properly equipped with the appropriate business reporting tools. A well informed media with an in-depth understanding of the dynamics and operations of corporates, capital markets and the financial sector play a major role in protecting citizens and investors from financial fraud.
The media, institutions and policy-makers need to understand the roles each can play, and the contribution each can make, in the development of capital markets and hence it is critical to improve the professionalism and accountability the media.
Take for example recent conversations around a sugar trade crisis in Kenya. Right now, the media is playing a critical role in representing the situation to the government, business world and general public. It is through this that the country can have a meaningful conversation on how to navigate and find solutions to the country’s troubles.
Financial literacy and empowerment, in Kenya for example is central to unlocking potential towards deepening her market and transform to middle income economy. Financial education programmes play a critical role in creating awareness and attitudes that people can use to adopt good financial management practices.
On an individual level, financial literacy helps one to use resources more effectively, choose the financial services and products that best meet their needs and shift from reactive to proactive financial decision-making thereby translating that awareness to empowerment.
On an institutional level, financial institutions use financial education to better meet client demands. Financial literacy is a win-win proposition for investors and institutions. Informed investors make better clients, who in turn represent reduced risk for financial institutions and contribute to a stronger bottom line.
Financial literacy holds the language for African economies to tell their story to the world, and for African citizens to be informed about their local economies. It is clear that if well trained, the contribution that financial journalists and development experts can make as continental informers, educators and watchdogs is significant.
Following this, Bloomberg has partnered with the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), associated with the University of Pretoria, South Africa, to create the Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa (BMIA). This is initiative is aimed at journalists and analysts that wish to develop their skills to contribute to the overall development of the continent through the distribution of business knowledge. The program operates from Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, at the major business schools in the respective countries. The BMIA aims to increase the pipeline of skilled financial journalists and analysts, embracing a data-driven journalism culture across Africa.
Dr. Samuel Siringi is a Lecturer of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Nairobi