Claremont. 5.6.2014. Dr Iqbal Surve, Executive Chairman of Independent Newspapers Media, during an interview with the Cape Times at his office in Claremont. Photo: Ian Landsberg. Reporter Aneez Salie

Cape Town - Sekunjalo Investment Holdings, the majority shareholder in Sekunjalo Independent Media - the publishers of titles including Business Report, The Star, Cape Times and IOL - has pledged to invest up to R50-million to rescue Sapa and create a Pan African multi-media news syndication service.

Sapa, the 76-year-old South African Press Association, is in mortal danger following the withdrawal of major media houses in recent months. The highly respected Agence France Presse (AFP) has also given notice of its intention to withdraw. This will effectively compromise Sapa’s ability to effectively cover Africa.

Sekunjalo executive chairman Dr Iqbal Surve said the withdrawal of major media houses in recent months had forced Independent to follow suit as the funding basis of the news agency needed the participation of all. Now the continued existence of Sapa was in jeopardy.

It was this which had prompted Sekunjalo to step in to protect the Sapa legacy and develop it for the 21st century, either on its own or with media houses here and across Africa.

Sapa's board of directors was informed of the bid yesterday afternoon.

Surve said his company already had advanced plans for an Africa-wide syndication service, as part of its growth strategy for Independent Media, which it acquired late last year.

“When we bid for Independent, the strategy was to grow the business’s footprint across the African continent, both through organic growth and strategic acquisitions. Sekunjalo already has substantial investments on the continent, in sectors such as technology, consumer industries, and health services. We intend to take Sapa into territory we understand very well, and intend to make it part of the wider African growth story.

“Apart from continuing the Sapa traditions of quality local content, the plan will be to expand the operation to become a major provider of content and other news services covering Africa,” Surve said

Sekunjalo would commit up to R50-million to establish this continental agency, he said.

“We hope the Sapa board and members will look favourably on our bid. We believe the African continent cannot fully take its place among the global community of nations without first telling its own story, both to itself and to the rest of the world. An expanded Sapa, acting as a continental provider of content to Africa and the rest of the world, will allow us to do that,” said Surve.