The Mail & Guardian in May 2014 launched Mail & Guardian Africa, a pan-African, digital news and information portal led by editor Charles Onyango-Obbo from Nairobi, Kenya. The reason the independent media house decided to expand into Africa, says Onyango-Obbo, is because it believes that as Africa prospers, it is converging too. “There have been so many homogenising forces – Nollywood, DStv, Big Brother Africa – working in the background to create a common African experience. We wanted to speak to that ‘new African’,” he says.
Covering Africa in the digital age is not very difficult, says Onyango-Obbo, but M&G Africa has faced two challenges in telling stories for an African audience. The first is that people respond differently to political stories about their country in local, Western and pan-African media. “They actually make more demands from fellow Africans than from other international media. That was a total surprise,” he explains.
M&G Africa also found that in countries like Nigeria, sub-politics attracts more interest than national politics. “We are beginning to think differently about what constitutes national and regional news across the continent. This might mean, for example, if you are doing a ranking story, you are more effective ranking Lagos against Johannesburg, Nairobi and Addis Ababa, than ranking Nigeria against South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia,” says Onyango-Obbo.
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