Communications Policy in Kenya

A review of Globalization and Communications Policy: The Role of the Media in Communications Policy Development in Kenya between 2002 and 2009, by Vanessa Malila.

The role of the media in politics and democracy in African countries has been and is an important research field in Media and Communication Studies as well as African Studies and Political Sciences. Vanessa Malila’s dissertation contributes to this research area and introduces a new perspective with her subject and research question. She analyzes the role of the press in communications policy development in Kenya in the years 2002 to 2009 and focuses on the role of the press in Multi-stakeholder Partnerships (MSPs) influencing communications policy. Her aim is to find out “whether and how the press in particular in Kenya were able to directly and indirectly influence communications policy by participating in the policy process and engaging with other stakeholders” (p. 1). Malila regards the press as one of the stakeholders in communications policy and analyzes its influence.

She chooses Kenya as a case study and focuses on two examples of policy-making processes, namely the development of the National Information and Communications Technology Policy (NICTP) of 2006 and the process which led to the passing of the Kenya Communications Amendment Act (KCAA of 2009), as “Kenya has represented both the best and worst of African politics” (p. 3). On one hand, Kenya was one of the “political and technological leader[s] in the continent” (p. 3); on the other hand, the voter fraud alleged by the opposition and election observers in the elections of 2007 and the violent protests which followed showed that the democratic system is not yet sustainably implemented. Apart from this scientific relevance, Malila also reveals her own personal interest, as a South African, in the development of African countries, and reflects on her role as a(n) (African) researcher.

To follow her research question, Malila contextualises her study in theories of communications policy, globalisation and Multi-stakeholder Partnerships. She stresses that local communications policy is influenced by globalisation and she identifies this influence in Multi-stakeholder Partnerships, which have been established on a global and national level. In her introduction (Chapter 1) she explains this research context and significance and provides concise definitions of important terminology.

In a first theoretical chapter (Chapter 2), Malila reviews the literature which has examined the role of the media in policy processes. She highlights the fact that in these studies the media have mostly been analysed as agenda-setters and asks “whether the media can move beyond this traditional agenda-setting role” (p. 10). Nevertheless, she illustrates the agenda-setting approach and also discusses the concepts of “framing” and “public opinion,” unfolding the different roles media might play in policy processes and outlining the relevant literature at the same time. Highlighting her research interest, Malila develops a model in which the different stakeholders, which influence the policy process, and the contexts in which these processes take place, become visible.

In a second theoretical chapter (Chapter 3) and based again on the review of relevant literature, Malila explains her argument that globalisation is affecting policy processes on different levels. After discussing diverse definitions of globalisation from the perspective of different paradigms, she argues that Multi-stakeholder Partnerships, in which state and non-state actors are involved, influence policy processes at a global and local level in a globalised world. Discussing different examples of MSPs, Malila shows the relevance of these networks and links this debate to her own research question.

In Chapter 4, the author contextualises her study in the political and historical context of Kenya. She goes back to the history of independence, explaining political developments and considering the tribal structure in Kenya, while also taking into account the previously mentioned elections of 2007. Based on this, she describes the historic development of the media system in Kenya.

In Chapter 5, the author explains her research method. She used a mixed-methods approach combining in-depth semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders (actors not only from the media, but also from the academia, civil society and the government) and a content analysis of the two biggest daily newspapers in Kenya (The Standard and the Daily Nation), as well as the KICTANet mailing list. KICTANet describes itself as a “multi-stakeholder platform for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation” (http://www.kictanet.or.ke/).

Chapters 6 and 7 present the results of the analysis. While in the former chapter Malila explains the results of her case studies separately, in the latter chapter she compares them and also links them to the findings from the literature review in Chapters 2 and 3. Furthermore, she contextualizes her findings within the political, economic and social environment of Kenya.

In Chapter 8, Malila comes to the critical conclusion that “the media failed to engage as active stakeholders in either the NCITP [National ICT Policy] or the KCAA [Kenya Communications Amendment Act]” (p. 206). But her dissertation also points out the contradictions and disruptions regarding the role of the press in the process of communications policies in Kenya. On one hand, the press has opportunities to participate and influence the policy-making process during the time considered; on the other hand, Malila argues that the press did not take full advantage of these possibilities. Having focused on the role of the press in communications policy processes in Kenya, Malila argues that the results of her study “can be extended to the media more generally in Kenya and may be relevant to print, broadcasting and ICT policy processes in the future” (p. 7).

Sigrid Kannengießer
Center for Media, Communication and Information Research
University of Bremen, Germany
Sigrid.kannengiesser@uni-bremen.de

Primary Sources

In-depth semi-structured interviews with different stakeholders (from the media, academia, civil society and the government)
The Standard
The Daily Nation
KICTANet mailing list

Dissertation Information

University of Leeds. 2012. 240 pp. Primary Advisor: Stephen Lax.

Image: Nanyuki Bus Station. Wikimedia Commons.

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