Apr 15

The Facts vs the Fiction with Steuart Pennington, CEO of Africa The Good News

Steuart Pennington

Steuart Pennington

The story of Africa has changed a great deal over the past few years. Who better than Steuart Pennington to talk about this? He had a very compelling story to share at Homecoming Revolution’s Africa Expo in London. His story was not just about his own country South Africa but the whole continent. A great deal has changed on the continent over the past decades. He has the facts and figures from comprehensive research done and his presentation was aptly titled “The Facts versus the Fiction”. There is indeed a good deal of fiction to deal with regarding South Africa and Africa as a whole.

What are some of the myths and questions that Steuart covered in his presentation:

  • SA has a small economy
  • Our university standards are dropping
  • Our brain drain is the worst in the world
  • Whites pay all the taxes
  • Our capacity for innovation is poor

The myths above are just some of the few things that Steuart touched on regarding South Africa. By putting things in a global context he was able to show that in many instances, the problems or issues in South Africa had on many been exaggerated. Yes there were challenges on the continent but perhaps there was a need to balance the narrative on Africa. There was a lot of good news about Africa that was going unreported or under-reported. Why was this the case?

In terms of Global Competitiveness South Africa had improved in a number of areas from 2009 to 2013. These areas included the following: Strength of Auditing & Reporting, Strength of Auditing & Reporting, Efficacy of Corporate Boards, and Soundness of Banks. On the areas that South Africa had declined in, these included HIV Prevalence, Flexibility of Wage Determination, Quality of educational system and Quality of Maths and Science Education.

Ten years is a long time in Africa. The Africa before 2000 was characterised by the following: 16 Wars, 8 Democratic Elections, 2% GDP Growth, 300 Publicly listed companies, 10 Companies with revenue exceeding $1 Billion and $15 Billion capital inflows. How does this compare with Africa now? Let’s see : Somalia, Sudan, Mali and the Central African Republic are at war, there have been 36 Democratic Elections, 5.5% GDP Growth, there are 1,500 Publicly listed companies, 110 Companies with revenue exceeding $1 Billion, $100 Billion capital inflows. Looking at these milestones, one can see a great deal of change over 10 years. Despite all these challenges there is a still a great deal of potential for more in Africa.

One thing that came out strongly from Steuart’s presentation is the need to arm ourselves with the facts and figures on Africa. On many times people talk about the problems in Africa without the necessary background or knowledge to do this. Some of these people are very influential and they in turn affect the way the continent is perceived by others. This can be very damaging where the information is negative and inaccurate. We were left with quite a bit of homework following the talk that showed just how passionate Steuart is about Africa.

Steuart is the founder and CEO of  SA Good news. The business of,  is to change the narrative out of South Africa and Africa. We believe strongly that news should be balanced, contextual and truthful; that news should inform both the good and the bad; and that news should enable citizens to hold a narrative that informs a positive prophesy of the future. It is our firm conviction that if citizens understand the good they are much more prepared to make a positive difference to the bad.

We believe that much of the current print, radio and broadcast media are trapped in a “good news is no news” paradigm and that our public broadcaster has no coherent news strategy. Add to this the danger of the ‘single story’ of afro-pessimism that is so much part of the global narrative on South Africa and Africa. It therefore becomes abundantly clear that different and alternative news sources need to be established to improve the geo-branding of South Africa and the continent.