In the coming decade, most of the fastest growing economies will be African, but the region’s progress in improving governance, poverty reduction, and human development lags far behind its economic growth. Governments and donors have largely overlooked the potential of a healthy media sector to boost Africa’s development.
There is already a robust body of research on media and development that uses macro data and finds strong and significant positive correlations between freedom of the press and development; Africa is relatively under-examined in this vein of research.
Broad-based economic growth and political stability in Africa seem to be strongly connected to the presence of a free press. Free press countries:
- Are less dependent on foreign aid
- Provide a better environment for businesses within the country
- Are more integrated into world financial markets
- Are more likely to be democratic than countries without a free press, and have much stronger democracies overall
A free press is associated with higher literacy in Africa, and we found literacy to be a vital factor in maintaining democracy over time, globally. Thus, literacy, a free press, and democracy can create a virtuous cycle that lays the ground for improvements in governance, and in development overall.