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LCS-MC201 African Media in a Global Age

Dr Wallace Chuma, Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town

Dr Wendy Willems, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science

Course outline

African media are a product of Europe’s encounter with the continent at the turn of the nineteenth century. The first newspaper on the continent was launched in 1800 in Cape Town by slave dealers with links to the colonial authorities. Subsequently, hundreds of publications were established across the continent by colonial governments, rich traders and missionaries. Although the majority of earlier media were platforms for colonial elites, the second half of the nineteenth century witnessed the emergence of what is commonly referred to as ‘black media’ aimed at a black readership, founded by missionaries as well as black intellectuals. At independence, many African governments saw modern mass media as crucial in educating the masses and in developing newly established nations. While they often maintained tight control over mass media, the 1990s saw the liberalisation and opening up of Africa’s media landscape to new privately-owned newspapers, radio and television stations. Despite persistent digital divides, more recently, the continent has seen a tremendous increase in mobile phone use, described by some as a ‘revolution’.

Acknowledging that media in Africa have historically been part of global processes such as colonialism, this course examines what role media and communication play in contemporary Africa. The first part of the course focuses on the role of media in African politics while the second part examines the role of media in the everyday lived experience of Africans. The course introduces students to key concepts and debates in media and communication studies, including media and colonialism, media regulation, media and elections, political communication, media production, media and nationbuilding, popular culture and resistance, cultural imperialism, media and religion and new media and mobility.

As part of the course, a range of case studies will be examined, including soap opera in South Africa, tabloids in Uganda, popular video in Nigeria, religious media in Ghana, political humour in Zimbabwe, and mobile phones in Mozambique.

Full course outline|

About the instructors


Dr Wallace Chuma is a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Film and Media Studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT). His research interests include media policy and regulation in Africa, political communication and the political economy of media ownership and media framing.

Before joining UCT in 2004, Chuma practised journalism in Zimbabwe, Botswana and the United States. He received his doctorate from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.


Dr Wendy Willems is a Lecturer in the Department of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Her research interests include critical approaches to media, communication and development; new media and social change; popular culture, performance and politics in Africa; and media and nationalism.

Before joining the LSE in 2013, she taught at the University of Westminster in London, University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and Midlands State University in Zimbabwe. She is Associate Editor of the Journal of African Media Studies (JAMS), and holds a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London.