Essay from NBR Special Report no. 100
China in Africa’s Media
A Case Study of Ghana
This essay considers Ghana as a case study of China’s strategy to influence media in Africa and thereby strengthen its foothold on the continent.
China’s ambition to be a major player in global geopolitics is no secret. It has also not lost sight of the fact that the media and information management and control are important tools in the achievement of that endeavor. Ghana presents an interesting case study of China’s well-laid strategy in not only influencing the media in Africa but also controlling what the media publishes about China. To achieve this, Beijing has launched a multipronged approach, including engaging the media directly by sponsoring African journalists’ visits to China to cultivate how the media should function from China’s perspective. In exerting its soft power, China has also used control mechanisms, such as speaking directly to governments and journalists, and has demanded what it regards as positive news coverage of its activities and citizens in Africa. It has also invested in existing media organizations to ensure positive coverage of news about China, as well as established replicas of state-owned Chinese media in African countries. Further, China has in some cases openly expressed displeasure over news coverage it deems “unfair” and “defamatory.”
- Given China’s enormous soft power, governments in Africa could clamp down on media coverage that is critical of China to appease the Chinese government. The occasion of the Chinese ambassador to Ghana calling on the Ghanaian government to tell journalists how to report about China is a good example of the use of soft power to get favorable news coverage.
- Considering the fact that media organizations in Africa have limited resources and most are faced with sustainability challenges, a wealthy country like China, which has shown considerable interest in investing in media, could be seen as a potential ally and possible source of funding. Thus, there is the temptation for media organizations to attempt to woo China by publishing uncritical news stories about the country as well as carrying Chinese propaganda.
- The training of Ghanaian journalists in China and visits to that country to attend conferences and seminars on media and interact with Chinese journalists could be viewed as a calculated attempt by Chinese leaders to influence the perspectives of African journalists.
Emmanuel K. Dogbevi is the Managing Editor of the Ghana Business News, a website he founded in 2008, and the Executive Director of NewsBridge Africa, a media training and advocacy nonprofit organization. He is based in Ghana’s capital, Accra, and has been practicing journalism for 32 years. The wide range of areas he has covered include the environment, business and finance, illicit financial flows, development, and politics.