The state of innovation and media viability in East Africa: from indepth media house surveys. The Media Futures Project.

Hesbon Hansen Owilla, Aga Khan University
Rose Kimani
Ann Hollifield
Julia Wegner
Dennis Reineck
Schürhoff Roland


Media houses globally are grappling with how best to produce quality content while at the same time remaining financially viable in the wake of shrinking revenues, technological disruptions, the emergence of peripheral content creators, competition for advertisement revenues from big tech platforms, the COVID-19 pandemic, and a myriad of other changes in the ecosystem. Despite these challenges, it is in the interest of the public that news media organisations (NMOs) produce quality content and do so in a financially sustainable fashion. Media viability, that is, producing quality journalism in a financially sustainable way, is, therefore, a growing area of focus. The Media Futures East Africa Project, jointly implemented by the Aga Khan University's Graduate School of Media and Communications and DW Akademie, set out to investigate the state of innovation and media viability in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. The research was conducted in two phases. The data was gathered via an in-depth survey of media managers and journalists from 437 media houses in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania from 2020 to 2021. Findings indicate that the East African media sector is considerably young, which may be a disadvantage due to a lack of experience and a high startup failure rate. However, studies have also shown that young media organisations are more likely to experiment with new areas and explore possible new business models without the added hurdle of undoing entrenched systems. Audience research skills is an area that media development organisations could focus their efforts on as it holds the potential for tangible impact.