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New Media Entrepreneurs in Africa

Tilo Grätz

My research focusses on new media entrepreneurs in Africa, a group of actors that is becoming ever more important as media fields in Africa become increasingly commercialized and diversified. Many of them run relatively small-scale ventures or businesses such as video shops or photo studios, others have found radio stations or PR agencies. Media entrepreneurs embrace all the economic opportunities and niches they can,  including the religious field. but also seek modes of self-realization, and often insist on conveying cultural messages. Sociologically speaking, these young journalists, media technicians, radio presenters or artists are often young dynamic people with creativity and hopes, but who face limitations and constraints. Often well-educated, familiar with global media streams, they are experts in connectedness, seizing opportunities and developing an entrepreneurial spirit almost by default; that is, driven by the necessities of both the market and their individual endeavours. My research focusses on their daily strategies: In many cases, they combine various activities both within and outside the realm of public media and communication – not only because of their economic need for diversification, but also because of the many new opportunities resulting from the processes of economic liberalization and privatization. Often not yet fully established in their businesses, they are profiting, however, from the technological and creative skills, either acquired by specialized schools or university curricula, or autodidactically. The obstacles and constraints they face do not, however, exclude pathways to success: some media actors have become entrepreneurs on a larger scale, expanding their fledgling enterprises into the wider public realm and commercialized media markets, and even forming media conglomerates.