Our mission

CFI is the media cooperation agency of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, and is responsible for coordinating and implementing French aid policy for promoting and enhancing the media in developing countries. CFI works alongside players operating in the media industry (TV, radio, written press, social media), whether state-owned or privately owned, in order to strengthen the modernisation and democratisation procedures that France so avidly supports. CFI is currently involved in around thirty projects that fall within four major programmes: media and pluralism, media and enterprise, media and development, and media and human resources.

1.CFI at a glance

2.Media’s place in development policies

Development, government and the media

According to the definition of the United Nations, “good governance promotes equity, participation, pluralism, transparency, accountability and the rule of law, in a manner that is effective, efficient and enduring. The greatest threats to good governance come from corruption, violence and poverty, all of which undermine transparency, security, participation and fundamental freedoms."

“As we all know, infrastructure is not just a matter of roads, schools and power grids. It is equally a question of strengthening democratic governance and the rule of law. Without accountability, not only of the government to its people but of the people to each other, there is no hope for a viable democratic State" (Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, February 2009).

The multiple crises that shake the countries of the South (pandemics or political, economic, terrorist or even environmental crises) make it very difficult to believe that those countries are catching up economically. The academic Bertrand Badie thus describes the gap that is created between the geopolitical and strategic analyses put forward by the countries of the North and the extreme difficulty that the societies of the South have in solidifying the social links and the institutions of their countries. In this context, media constitutes one of the essential components of processes that are more global in nature and are built around educational, legislative and economic programmes Development aid policies must address the fragility of these “fragments of societies that arrive on the international scene", where they are thrown back and forth between influences of all kinds and lack the stability and hindsight to defend their national priorities. In this context, media constitutes one of the essential components of processes that are more global in nature and are built around educational, legislative and economic programmes.

These issues expressed by academics were taken into account by the United Nations when defining the post-2015 agenda for development. In December 2014, Article 78 of the synthesis report of the Secretary-General on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda cites freedom of press and access to information in the list of areas where action is required in order to strengthen the institutions of democratic governance. He reiterates what UNESCO has said: “the importance of promoting freedom of expression and universal access to knowledge and its preservation - including, among others, through free, pluralistic and independent media, both offline and online – as indispensable elements for flourishing democracies and to foster citizen participation must be reflected in the post-2015 development agenda".

In the global development process proposed by the United Nations, the media of the South, which has long been confined to a role of broadcasting information, is now recognised as a developmental factor in its respective countries. This paradigm shift places the international media cooperation agencies in the development aid sector and gives them the responsibility of embarking on structuring professionalisation programmes within the media of the South.

The paradigm shift which was sought by the international organisations at the point of transition to the post-Kyoto period, and which was intended to bring the development issues of the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) together in a more global movement, is currently being negotiated around four priorities: economic, human/social, environmental and governance/peace and security. Even if media development is not intended to constitute an objective in its own right, the issues of pluralism, education, economic growth and ownership of environmental realities – issues that are disseminated through the media – put media in a multi-disciplinary position in the global movement that will structure the next two decades.

Even if the link between freedom of expression and its impact on development is still the subject of much debate, there is no longer any doubt that media cooperation is now considered to be a constituent part of governance programmes, as evidenced by the recent GovNet and OECD financing opened up for media projects.

APD: clarified and shared principles since Busan 2011

The 2011 Busan Partnership for effective cooperation in support of development has made it possible to reorient the priorities and implementation arrangements for public development aid in order to avoid a situation in which the impact of international aid is weakened. Supported by 160 countries, it marks a turning point in the search for coherence between the expectations of the recipients and the objectives of the multilateral donors. This partnership clarifies four key principles:

  • Ownership : the developing countries must take control of their development policies and strategies. This principle leads to a revision of the North/South policies to the benefit of jointly developed projects so that the recipients can break their dependence on bilateral and international aid.
  • A focus on results : priority is given to long-term projects that sustainably reinforce the structural and human capacities of developing countries. Development takes time to take effect in a far-reaching and effective manner.
  • Complementarity of the aid : Partnerships open to all benefit the diversity and complementarity of the roles of all actors. The recipient countries must take control of the prospects and stages of their development.
  • Transparency and shared responsibility : these principles that are demanded of all development projects are based on mutual trust, both on the side of the donors and on the side of the recipients. They guarantee better comprehension of the development programmes and simultaneously contribute towards bringing them closer to the populations of the recipient countries. This dimension is directly concerned with the media of these countries, which is able to contribute, via decryption and local debates, towards reinforcing democratic foundations and the governance processes of the countries concerned.

The international community is seeking more effective development, the effects of which are measurable over time in terms of the autonomy and independence of the countries. These principles have marked a turning point in international public development aid, which, previously, was primarily governed by the rationale inherited from the policies of influence in the donor countries. In the years that followed Busan, several groups of previously isolated countries were thus formed in order to carry and defend common visions, which, at times, diverge from those of the traditional industrial powers.

What is the purpose of media cooperation?

The positive power of the media is based on the economic independence of media companies, the professionalism of journalists, pluralism of points of view and a well understood relationship with the public. This requirement of demonstrating its capabilities constitutes a prerequisite in so far as, in the countries of the South, state media propaganda remains a very real reality.

The notion of the positive role of the media must be analysed in medium-term evaluations of media cooperation projects in so far as training cannot, on its own, be regarded as a guarantee of pluralism. In an authoritarian environment, well-trained journalists can actually become weapons of propaganda that are even more formidable and effective. In a paroxysmal manner, the disastrous example of Radio Mille Collines showed, from 1992 onwards, the weight that a media manipulated by destructive interests could carry in paving the way for genocide. This is also demonstrated by the impact of the information that ISIS advocates are spreading via digital networks.

In response, media cooperation must support the creation of professional, diversified, competitive and stable audiovisual landscapes.

In response, media cooperation must support the creation of professional, diversified, competitive and stable audiovisual landscapes. This support contributes to the emergence of a civil society that can participate in governance processes and debate. Based on proximity, it involves networks of local and national operators. It is an aspiration that demands responses that are adapted to each country so as to take account of experience, the social, political and economic contexts as well as disparities in terms of, for example, access to electricity.

The contribution of the media in democratic governance processes takes on its full meaning when these multiple actors are added together to constitute diversified, representative and sustainable audiovisual landscapes. An optimal media system would be simultaneously composed of professional and long-term local media and pluralist national media, combined with a controlled gateway to international media. Beyond this diversity of operators, the issue is primarily one of diversity of the content. Even if information has a central place, the media is also a powerful vehicle of education, culture and entertainment, all of which are determinant factors in the stability and development of societies.

The issue of access to global information, and even to national information, is no longer the priority issue of media cooperation. This is because access, which is easier to gain than in the past, to an extensive range of information only partially meets the expectations of local analysis. Today, development projects concentrate on the needs of the actors from civil society, on cross-media initiatives and on the positioning of these actors in their environment. The cooperation agencies and the donors pay particular attention to these actions, which attempt, in time, to build bridges between the local, the national and the international levels.

The densification of this network creates a space for exchange between the collective (the State) and the citizens. The plurality of the media offer gives a place to the most deprived and enables them to assert their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and, in time, this contributes towards ensuring national cohesion.

In light of this issue, the digital revolution provides a formidable amount of potential for expression, but also accentuates the risk of abuse. When the traditional media of the State and the regulatory bodies are discredited, the population has no benchmark against which to differentiate information from stories on social networks. The latter are spontaneously perceived as a form of media associated with values of independence and freedom of speech.

The media sector – an endogenous actor for development

Media cooperation deploys its know-how and experience so that the media actors in the South can play their social role of local development without forgetting that the media generates, by itself, economic activity of its own right. Even if it is relatively modest in size in relation to traditional development aid sectors (health, education, public infrastructures, agriculture), it does have a driving force that is not merely symbolic and political.

CThis force increases in depth when account is taken of the fact that several sectors are intrinsically linked to a media landscape that is embedded in the daily life of the country. Advertising thus depends, first and foremost, on the media and cannot exist without a media market organised around independent and competitive actors. Given the impact that advertising has on national consumption and therefore on the economy and employment, the sector assumes a cross-disciplinary and structuring position in the development of a country.

The professionalisation of the media is linked to the development of countries, both in terms of their objectives and in terms of their momentum. The actors directly or indirectly linked to the media are sometimes even driving forces behind seizing technological opportunities, for example. Faced with the inactivity of the leaders, the populations of the countries of the Arab Spring changed the field of battle by transforming social networks into media of resistance and revolution. Today, this experience obligates the traditional media to seek out the public that consults, exchanges or subscribes to these services that invent new models and economic balances.

The connection between this sector and telecommunications constitutes another example in Sub-Saharan Africa where mobile telephones have become established even before the deployment of fixed networks, which will never see the light of day there.

This sector is also at the heart of artistic creation in all its forms and it influences, more than anything else, the affirmation of the cultural identity of countries. This connection even constitutes a critical link in the modernisation of governance policies by enlarging the contribution that is left to civil society in all its diversity.

Media activities therefore influence development on two levels:

  • As an economic sector that must favour the development of local operations so that they gain professionalism and economic autonomy
  • As a free and credible means of providing information and leading public debate within a society

3.The media of the South: a longstanding priority for France

French voluntarism benefitting development aid

Despite a slowing of its budgetary efforts over the last several years, France remains a major player in worldwide public development aid. As recalled by the President of the Republic on 27 August 2014 at the 22nd Conference of Ambassadors, the budgetary difficulties are not jeopardising the “development priorities". President François Hollande reaffirmed “the special effort to support the poorest countries" and “the importance of development in the fight against terrorism".

France still contributes nearly 10% of the overall base of worldwide public development aid funding, even while the latter is being fully reconstructed – as a result of a scissor effect between the budgetary constraints of the traditional donors and the increase in strength of contributions from emerging countries. In the media sector more specifically, the French contribution, even if it is decreasing considerably, remains sufficiently significant to influence certain priorities and working methods. Faced with the domination of the British and American operators, this voluntarism contributes towards preserving the visibility of French cooperation in several theatres, from Sub-Saharan Africa through South-East Asia to the Arab world and the Caucasus.

Instead of the counter-productive excessiveness of certain bilateral or multilateral interventions, which too often translates into a sudden surge of financial aid and training actions in narrow media sectors that are unable to absorb them and are left permanently destabilised, France chooses to implement projects of a manageable size that are developed together with the recipients. This choice involves a degree of operational complexity, but guarantees effective follow-up and a deeper understanding of the issues.

A long tradition of supporting the media in the South

France possesses the world's second largest diplomatic network, which serves to increase the influence and cultural reach of our country. This network has made it possible to assert the French presence in most countries and build a relationship of trust in several sectors, including that of the media.

France possesses the world's second largest diplomatic network, which serves to increase the influence and cultural reach of our country.

Thus, 25 years ago, well before there was even talk of media cooperation, the French Ministry of Cooperation launched CFI, an agency that it initially charged with supporting the creation of the first television companies of several African countries. This policy was backed by a very dense network of technical assistants assigned to a large number of media organisations and by a major long-term initiative of training sessions, which were essentially entrusted to the French National Audiovisual Institute (Institut national de l'audiovisuel – INA).
This programme evolved and transformed into a network of around fifteen attachés and audiovisual correspondents in the countries or sub-regions of cooperation.

Coherence with the principle priorities of French diplomatic policy

The objectives pursued in the media sector fulfil several of France's diplomatic priorities:

  • Political stability : by consolidating democracy, inter-community dialogue and reconciliation, media cooperation reinforces programmes of good governance implemented by France in numerous countries. The professionalism of the media constitutes an investment on the basis of which democratic reforms can be expedited as soon as the necessary conditions have been met.
  • Economic diplomacy : the modernisation of the media operators of the South helps to structure the markets of these countries, which gain financial autonomy, which lays the foundations for future exchanges with the economic players of the North, and with French companies, in particular. The development leads to market principles that French cooperation promotes with a view to sustainable and balanced development.
  • Cultural diplomacy : while the majority of the international players are concentrating their efforts on the journalistic dimension of the media, France is paying particular attention to the defence of cultural identities and artistic creation in the countries of the South. The media sector structuring policies are contributing towards developing talent, building local industry and preserving the identity of the most fragile cultures, which tend to be marginalised by the issues and dynamics of globalisation more and more each day.

Experience and multiple assets to offer

France has a rich and varied media landscape, the experience and know-how of which are an inspiration for operators in the South seeking to modernise their practices or lay the foundations for a new balance in the sector.

For example, the original systems for financing a strategic sector contribute towards guaranteeing lasting stability where the digital dividends, the laws limiting foreign shareholder participation or the powers of the regulatory body provide specific ways to structure the sector and protect it from potential connivance.

At operator level, coexistence between the public and private media makes it possible to develop the services and meet the most demanding expectations of the public. The introduction of local media at the beginning of the 1980s started a trend, which continues today, of harnessing the technological potential of digital technology and interactivity. This area is awash with hybrid initiatives that give rise to lively exchanges between entrepreneurs from the North and South, which, beyond the expert/beneficiary relationship, pave the way for creative and original partnerships.

Even if not all of this is transposable, the cooperation can provide, in the image of what France has put in place, ways to base the financing of national production on a range of mechanisms that include automatic contributions from broadcasters or a tax on recording devices. At a time when DTT is expanding, such revenue can maintain creative financing indefinitely so as to be able to satisfy the public's desire to have more content with which they can identify.

As tools of cultural influence, France also offers an original network of developed external media organisations with a particularly strong brand image and high level of recognition, especially in Francophone Africa. Even if only a few countries have the ambition to create such international media organisations, the programmes intended for travellers and expatriates can serve as models for operators in the South hoping to re-establish direct contact with their diasporas.
This offer of expertise is filled with success, clever initiatives, short-term failures and even layers of bureaucracy, the ins and outs of which it will be useful to be aware of when embarking on reforms and investments that will influence the countries for many years.

4.CFI’s operational priorities

The action taken by CFI, an operator of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development, is governed by an annual convention that sets out its mandate and its intervention priorities.

This convention calls for CFI not to position itself in areas of commercial expertise in which other public and private actors are already present, but to focus on action pertaining to public development aid.

Clearer programmatic priorities that cover the main issues of the sector

Since the second quarter of 2014, CFI has reorganised its cooperation activity around the PPA method (Programme → Projects → Actions).

The programme constitutes the strategic framework of this activity and assures coherence between the priorities of public development aid. The programme is not an operational level but becomes an essential element of transparency and clarity for CFI. Communication (speeches, website, activity report) and the management tools (provisional budget, project management tool) are currently being redesigned around the programme concept.
In agreement with the MAEDI, CFI has opted for a restricted number of programmes, with four priorities that centre all CFI projects on structural issues and editorial issues.

Two structural issues :

Media and business

“Media and business" tackles, from an economic angle, the work on the development of financial resources, competition management, media company organisation as well as the development of new, sustainable economic models.

Media and human resources

“Media and human resources" encompasses the support provided to the local training centres, the provision of certification courses as well as the running of networks of professionals of the future.

Two editorial issues:

Media and pluralism

“Media and pluralism" encompasses everything that relates to the freedom of speech and the quality of information, the handling of political discourse, the diversity of media landscapes, and legislative frameworks.

Media and development

“Media and development" addresses the place of the media in issues of development and the creation of innovative content so as to deal with these subjects in an interactive and pedagogical manner.

Each programme is described in a framework document that outlines the general context (situational analysis, expectations), the priority issues and CFI's area of intervention (projects launched/to be developed).

An area of intervention that evolves according to the priorities

In any given period of time, professionals from around forty countries (Sub-Saharan Africa, the Mediterranean, Caucasus, Balkans and South-East Asia) are involved in around thirty projects that are ongoing, in preparation or under evaluation. The choice of the intervention countries and the recipients is based on two main criteria:

  • The potential for success of the projects committed to: backed by 25 years of experience in the field, CFI focuses mainly on the operators that are the most able to bring about modernisation and reform of their practices and to overcome inactivity, habits, context or pressure.
  • The unique situation of the country: crisis, post-crisis, democratic transition, etc. In these cases, the diplomatic priority requires supportive measures that involve the identification of partners to carry out short- and medium-term projects. These partnerships are intended to continue, once the situation has stabilised, if the beneficiaries meet the first criterion.

A global rationale for complex and intertwined issues

For the sake of transparency and coherence, each project is only based on a single programme, which is the one that meets the main objective set out with the recipient. That said, the problems of these four programmes are intertwined and interdependent and, in reality, are complementary facets of harmonious and sustainable development.

This is because financial resources alone do not make good journalists, in the same way that, without resources, journalists cannot apply, in the long term, the principles that they have learned. And the development of the sector requires the promotion of certain employees to posts of responsibility that are more structuring – career management that is only possible if the intermediary levels of management are put in place between the leaders and the core staff.
It is also necessary that the generalist media has the means to take risks in order to offer more complex content that can enrich public debate. These cases that are open to the difficult issues of development can only be produced by well-trained professionals in whom the broadcaster invests substantial means. The economics are at the heart of the decision-making process on whether to launch such initiatives that require the mobilisation of human resources, programming, economic viability and knowledge of the market. Only then will these productions eventually be able to contribute towards reinforcing the relationship of trust between the media and the public.

In other words, robust companies do not exist without well-trained human resources, and long-term opportunities for trained professionals do not exist without economically viable companies. Nor do incisive investigative reports exist without economic and political independence on the part of the media that will – or will not – broadcast them.

Discover CFI