ABMI Innovator Chats 2020


The Africa Business Media Innovators (ABMI) is a unique convening that brings together global media owners, c-suite executives, and senior thought leaders from business, government, philanthropy, and civil society. Together, participants share best practices, emerging trends and integrated company strategies that provide unique value to their audiences. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the planned in-person ABMI20 is postponed until next year. This year, the BMIA team offered a virtual ABMI20 Innovator Chats, to examine the immense and unprecedented disruption to the media landscape in Africa and globally due to COVID-19 and other factors. ABMI20 Innovator Chats took place over two days, with conversation and panels in a combination of pre-recorded and live programming.

Joining the conversations were Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB); Deputy Communications Minister Pinky Kekana, South Africa; Minister of Digital Economy and Digital Transformation Cina Lawson, Togo.

Highlights of ABMI20 Innovator Chats

Opening Address: Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB)

President Adesina said the worst pandemic in living memory has cost the continent a decade of what had been impressive economic growth, including six of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world, with the pandemic having dire consequences of rising poverty and joblessness.

The AfDB has launched a $10 billion Crisis Response facility to provide countries with critically needed liquidity as well as the largest ever denominated social bond on the global capital market: a $3 billion COVID-19 social impact bond to allow countries to upgrade health facilities, purchase essential medicines and personal protective equipment, pay for rising costs for healthcare workers, and provide social protection for the most vulnerable.

To counter the pandemic, Africa needs further international debt relief, better management of its own natural resources and greater utilization of the more than $1-trillion dollars in pension, sovereign wealth and insurance funds. These measures would help close the annual infrastructure financing gap, which the AfDB estimates to be anything between $64 billion to $108 billion annually.

Although African economies and health systems have been impacted by the pandemic, Dr. Adesina highlighted how Africa will overcome COVID-19 and shared the opportunities for Africa to build back, faster, by harnessing and better managing natural resources and promoting more transparent governance as a key component of financing growth. In addition, a strong and independent media remains an integral part of Africa’s development efforts.


Africa Economic Forecast: Matt Winkler; Bloomberg Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

Africa’s containment of the virus to date has been a benefit converging with the longer-term trend for growth in many African economies. This is evidenced by a Bloomberg study of the 200 largest Sub Saharan African companies by market capitalization, which has consistently beaten the global emerging market average and has been markedly better than the global frontier markets.

“The remotely engaged economy is something that Africa jumped into largely because it never had the same investment in infrastructure as the most developed world economies. And now it finds itself in a place that is critical for developing all kinds of industries without dealing with the traditional 20th century infrastructures. That means that Africa, even with all its problems, is likely to outperform much of the world, in 2021, 2022 and even beyond.”


Panel: The Digital Transformation of New Media and the Rise of Disinformation

The fight for press freedom in Africa especially, is not something that can be left to the protections provided by national governments, but rather must include broader frameworks led and facilitated by transnational bodies such as the African Union and global institutions.


“The impact of social media has, in many ways contributed to the disinformation narrative that we have seen take hold all over the world. One of the features of this moment is that we have come to understand that there is a great amount of money to be made by promoting division and hate. We have to address that reality. We have to think about the type of policies we need, the regulations that we need.”

– Darren Walker, President, Ford Foundation

“We have an obligation to ensure that truth prevails, and that we have responsible journalism, because all these falsehoods are actually a danger to society.”

– Pamella Sittoni, Executive Editor Nation Media Group

“The idea of regulation in country is important but it must be weighed against people who want to overregulate.”

– Uzodinma Iweala, CEO, Africa Center

“We need a new paradigm and a new framework around social interests: can social media serve public interest?”

– Joel Simon, Executive Director, Committee to protect Journalists


CEO Media Roundtable

The future of media companies will be premised on top-quality journalism that offsets fake news and information because of its relevance and credibility. It will be supported by loyal communities of consumers willing to pay for the unique value proposition irrespective of the delivery platform: print, web, podcast, video or even webinars or at events. This community will be further monetized through digital advertising spend, as retailers and corporates pivot to e-commerce and use these media outlets as conduits to those niche communities, rather than Google and Facebook.


“It is the most dynamic I have seen the media business…as hard as this year has been, it has been one of the most dynamic, challenging in a good way, stimulating and innovative time for our business and media as a whole….we are living in an era of change….”

– Almar Latour, CEO, Dow Jones and Company

“Covid-19 has helped us accelerate the movement from the hard copy to the digital platform…we are so excited of the movement in terms of technology…the pace was very slow in Ghana, COVID-19 helped us to move to digital paid subscriptions.…”

– Dr. Edith Dankwa, CEO, Business and Financial Times Limited

“We are seeing a bounce back into digital because many businesses are becoming e-commerce incentivized…and moving into that space.…”

– Styli Charalambous, Publisher and CEO, Daily Maverick, South Africa


Media Management, Data Privacy and Security

Personal data can be used to influence elections and persecute minorities; biometric data can be used to steal identities and defraud individuals. Africa has conventions in place to protect privacy and secure data but these are universally inadequately enforced. Privacy and data security are low on the scale of existential needs like shelter, food and medicine. The biggest culprits are the social media monoliths who get individuals, especially the most vulnerable, to trade their privacy for access to content in an environment where data costs are high, with no consequences or control of the subsequent use of that information, which is then further monetized or misused.


“Personal data reveals a lot about you and can easily be exploited to cause harm…it has so many implications particularly for people in vulnerable communities, which makes data protection elements so important….how do we move into a space where companies, businesses, even non-state actors and the state create an environment that doesn’t burden the individual, but actually is a legislative framework in which people can operate, that ensures they are protected and their data is protected as well…”

– Koketso Moeti, Executive Director, amandla.mobi

“There is a lot of industry consolidation in the world…that allows large consolidated entities to be profitable and think about bigger pictures issues….the industry in Africa is still very fragmented very much by country, there are smaller players who don’t have the benefit of having a well-financed parent corporation….”

– Teresa Clarke, Chairman & CEO, Africa.com

“The issue is that we have a consumption that is impeded by cost of access and bandwidth itself…people are used to traditional media, TV saw its highest ratings in the COVID era….”

– Samuel Attah-Mensah, Managing Director, Omni Media Ltd


All ABMI20 Innovator Chats sessions, video intervals, live performance by Asa, and DJ set by Eli Fola are available on demand through January 8, 2021. Please register here with your email address.

For more information on ABMI20 Innovator Chats, please contact bmia@bloomberg.com

Read the press release here.


Underwritten by

Africa Business Media Innovators (ABMI) 2019

“We found it hugely productive and valuable, having made important connections and engaged in a number of really useful and informative sessions. Overall it was a great experience, and we are appreciative of the attention and care that went into it, and making it valuable for all of us who attended.”
–Tomiwa Aladekom, CEO Big Cabal Media

“This had been a fantastic event and I feel so special and honored to have been invited and to have been on a panel! I think BMIA has and are continuing to convene a special event where it isn’t too big or too small, but with enough new and fascinating people to allow for new connections and learning.”
–William Bird, Executive Director, Media Monitoring Africa

“It is about people, we invest in businesses but ultimately we invest behind management teams.”
–Louise Stewart, Mergers and Acquisitions Executive, Naspers Limited (What Investors Want)

“The way we approach journalism and the business at the New York Times has fundamentally shifted and in the past three years it has accelerated to emphasize on visual journalism and enterprise, that is, deeply reported investigations.”
–James Bennett, Editorial Page Editor, The New York Times (What’s Next in News)

“When you think about subscriber growth, it is not just about the acquisition of subscribers, but also retention; retention comes down to the quality of your content. Are people going to come back and pay to access what you have to offer? The answer is to make content that is sticky enough.”
–Funa Maduka, Former Director of International Original Film Acquisitions, Netflix (The Art of Immersion)

“…Overall though, this is easily one of the best media conferences/events. Precisely because you have the mix and number and length to spot on. Well done!”
–Survey respondent