The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) announced in September that it would
be expanding its Africa-focused content with a raft of new programmes that will
include news, business and music shows.
This comes very soon after the international broadcaster launched its brand new,
state-of-the-art facility in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which has now become the
BBC’s centre of operations for Swahili-language content. Clearly the African
continent has been identified by the BBC as a major growth market. According to
Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News, the corporation is particularly conscious of the
astonishing growth of mobile devices as a means for receiving news and
entertainment content on the continent. Many of the BBC’s African language news
services, he says, have adapted their entire workflow to appeal to audiences now
consuming the majority of their content via mobile phone. This is particularly true
of the Hausa news office operating out of the Nigerian capital, Abuja, and the
Swahili bureaus in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
However, the possibilities of broadcast are by no means limited to these, with the
constant rise of satellite and DTT platforms in Africa.
“We recognise that Africa is one of the fastest developing news markets in the
world, and the way audiences consume news is changing, but it’s essential that the
trusted, impartial and world-class journalism, for which the BBC is famous, remains
central to the new media landscape. The BBC is listening to its audiences across the
continent and responding to the growing appetite for local, relevant content that
also provides a fully rounded picture of Africa to our audiences around the world.
That is what we hope to offer with this raft of new Africa-focused content, which
will complement the extensive range of regular African programmes we already
offer,’ Egan says.
Egan explains that Africa has a strong legacy with the BBC. “Three African countries
feature in the BBC’s top 10 global markets,’ he says. “In Nigeria the BBC has a
weekly audience of 24 200 000; in Tanzania it is 13 400 000 and in Egypt it is 8 800
000.’ The audience was established through radio, which still fetches viewership of
around 65 million for the British broadcaster. However, the BBC’s African footprint
across newer platforms is increasing dramatically. Egan quotes figures which
indicate that the BBC’s African television audience has increased from 25.4 million
in 2012 to 32.6 million in 2013. Programmes such as Focus on Africa are
particularly popular, reaching 11 million viewers.
It is in the digital realm, however, that the BBC is experiencing the largest growth.
“Weekly visitors to BBC.com have increased from just 1.8 million in 2012 to 4.8
million in 2014. This reflects the rapidly growing African digital audience. Coupled
with improving internet provision and increased mobile ownership in this market (it
is predicted that there will be 800 million mobile phones in Africa by 2015, the
fastest global growth rate) this is an exciting area for the BBC in the future.’
The new programming to be launched includes Africa’s New Entrepreneurs, which
according to the promotional material, “introduces audiences to the brains behind
some of the continent’s most successful and ingenious business ventures’. African
Dream is another entrepreneurship-focused programme, while a new series of
African Beats is set to showcase the amazing variety of the continent’s musical
offerings. The BBC is fully aware of the popularity of football in Africa, hence its
annual BBC African Footballer of the Year Competition. These new programmes will
complement well-established, ongoing audience favourites such as Africa Business
Report, presented by Lerato Mbele, and Focus on Africa, presented by Sophie
“Africa is thriving and it is a hot bed for innovation, leading the way in a range of
technological developments. The audience’s growing love of all things digital means
that we are increasingly providing programming that spans both TV and online, such
as Africa’s New Entrepreneurs and Africa Beats, so our audiences can get relevant
content wherever and whenever they want it,’ Egan concludes.