Media and Economic Development – Sub Saharan Africa

Sanjukta Roy (World Bank Institute, Internews Network)
Michael Behrman (Columbia University)

Abstract: In the past two decades, the Sub-Saharan African (SSA henceforth) region has seen conflicting growth and developmental outcomes. According to IMF statistics, the region has shown a steady rate of growth in the past two decades. However, in terms of simultaneous development in institutional qualities, like governance and political stability, the region has not shown much promise. The conflicting development story in the region can be attributed to a large number of social, political, cultural and demographic factors. Of these, political stability is often cited as a key determinant of the development discourse of the region (Armah and Amoah, 2010). As mentioned earlier and acknowledged by adequate academic literature, a robust media sector is considered to be a determinant of political stability in a country. To consider greater independence of the media sector along with a greater access to information as pertinent determinants of political stability in particular, and good governance in general, is intuitive. An unbiased media sector holds the key to ensure greater accountability and exchange between the ones in power and the populace and lessen corruption. However, for the media sector to perform its role effectively there needs to be other factors in place – especially greater reach of the media outputs and a sufficiently literate populace to understand and interpret the media propagations meaningfully. In this paper we build on the above intuition and investigate the explanatory power of independence of the press and access to information on aspects of economic development – namely political stability. The importance of the research lies in the fact that it adds to the very scare group of literature that looks at the importance of an efficient media sector for development specifically in the SSA region. Secondly, this paper does not rely only on the importance of press freedom but also includes the effect of greater access to information.

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