Ahead of China’s annual sessions of the National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, China’s national english newspaper China Daily interviewed academics, diplomats and executives from multinational companies, including AMI CEO Eric Chinje, on their opinions, ideas and predictions. To read insights from Eric and others interviewed, you can view the full article on the China Daily : Experts assess the way ahead for China
Nairobi, Kenya – Religious leaders, media and members of the public including dozens of youth gathered at the Desmond Tutu Centre to celebrate World Interfaith Harmony Week under the theme “Interfaith Cooperation for Peaceful Existence and the Sustainable Development Goals of Africa.”
The event was sponsored by United Religions Initiative – Africa, African Council of Religious Leaders, African Media Initiative, Inter-Religious Council of Kenya and All Africa Conference of Churches. World Interfaith Harmony Week was first proposed at the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 by H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Ambassador Mussie Hailu, Regional Director of URI – Africa, welcomed the delegates in his opening remarks. “One guiding principle for peaceful coexistence and compassion is the golden rule,” says Ambassador Hailu. “As we gather in our different faiths, we pray for peace, particularly in areas with political unrest like Central African Republic, Somali and Burundi. 16 countries are holding elections this year and we pray for peaceful elections everywhere.”
Meredith Beal of the African Media Initiative (AMI) spoke about AMI’s campaign to fight hate speech in the media and shared points from the public debate on hate speech held at AMI’s recent African Media Leaders Forum in Johannesburg, SA. Beal also shared Ethical Journalism News’ Five-Point Hate Speech Test for Journalists as well as a Checklist for Tolerance.
“Media has a powerful voice and the ability to shape public opinion and behavior,” says Beal. “It is important that media practitioners are careful not to inflame passions or incite violence and are mindful of the impact of what they publish or broadcast.”
In his keynote address, Dr. Mohamed Omar, Peace and Security Representative for the Horn of Africa, underscored the importance of individual action and the critical role of religious institutions can play in creating and maintaining the peace. “Religion should not be used as a basis for violence,” says Dr. Omar.
The African Union’s Youth President Stephen Machua implored young people to take responsibility for creating a more peaceful society. “The inequalities that exist can be solved through our small acts of kindness,” he explains. Machua noted that because 70% of Africa’s population is comprised of youth, it is more critical than ever to instill in them a passion for peace.
All of the delegates endorsed a Personal Pledge for Peace and Non-Violence
There are numerous elections set to take place in Africa in 2016. The media will play a critical role in this democratic process before, during and after the polls close. Election reporting in Africa is challenging. Journalists face a host of obstacles, ranging from restrictions on press freedom to difficulties reporting from locations where there is limited polling or voting outcome data.
The virtual workshop will introduce journalists in the region to best practices in election reporting as well as the opportunity to interact with international journalists experienced in election coverage in Africa and beyond.
Workshop speakers will introduce and reinforce professional standards in the many aspects of reporting on elections and address the importance an impartial media and its relationship with both the government and the general public during the electoral process. The workshop will address:
The speakers are experienced journalists who are familiar with the challenges of reporting on elections on the continent (bios below).
English workshop: Tuesday, February 16 from 13:30- 15:00 GMT
Introduction: Eric Chinje, CEO, African Media Initiative
Moderator: Jerelyn Eddings, Senior Program Director ICFJ, Knight International Journalism Fellowships
Speaker: Judy Yablonky, Media Consultant and Journalism Trainer
French workshop: Wednesday, February 17 from 15:00- 16:30 GMT
Introduction: Eric Chinje, CEO, African Media Initiative
Moderator: Eduardo Cue, International Journalist and Media Consultant
Speaker: Daniel Glick, co-founder of The Story Group, an independent, multimedia journalism company.
WHO SHOULD PARTICIPATE IN THE WORKSHOPS
Reporters, editors, producers, bloggers and anyone reporting or writing about elections in their country.
RSVP to email@example.com and indicate the requested date/language. We will then send you the online link for the workshop. Please submit RSVPs at least 24 hours prior to the start of program.
Moderators & Speakers bios
Jerri Eddings is a senior program director with the International Center for Journalists, whose Knight International Journalism Fellowships are empowering journalists in sub-Saharan Africa to use the latest digital tools to tell compelling stories on health and development issues. Ms. Eddings has extensive experience in the United States and Africa as a reporter, editor, television producer and director of media capacity building programs. She served as managing editor of Africa programming for Howard University Television (WHUT), a PBS station in Washington, DC (2002-04). She also served as director of the Freedom Forum’s Africa media center in Johannesburg, South Africa (1997-2002). In addition, she served as the Atlanta bureau chief for U.S. News & World Report (1994-97). Prior to that, she worked as a foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun and then U.S. News, covering the final years of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections.
Judy Yablonky is an international journalist and media consultant with more than 35 years’ experience in international media. She started her international career in 1977 as a foreign correspondent covering southern Africa for the Associated Press from Johannesburg. Since 1991, she has specialized in seminars and media training programs for over 2,000 professional journalists and politicians in 30-plus countries in Africa, as well as in Eastern Europe and Nepal. She has worked with a dozen different international organizations as a trainer, including: The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ), the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the Soros Foundation, the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism, the International Alliance for Justice, and le Centre pour les Journalistes et les Communicateurs (CAPJC). She also has taught courses at universities in Moldova and South Africa. She is fluent in French and lives near Paris.
Eduardo Cue is a high-level communications officer with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, serving in New York and Africa (Mali and South Sudan) and has worked as an international journalist at leading broadcast and print news organizations for over 20 years (CNN, AP, UPI, US World News and Report, France24, Televisa and The Times). Cue has over 20 years’ experience as a media trainer, leading journalism seminars in more than 30 African countries for university students and professional journalists. These included teaching basic journalistic practice, journalism ethics, the role of the media in emerging democracies, and the relationship between the media and the military, as well as speaking frequently before civil society groups and local politicians on the continent.
Daniel Glick is the co-founder of The Story Group, an independent, multimedia journalism company formed in 2009, and based in Colorado. He is a journalist with 25 years of magazine writing experience, including 13 years with Newsweek and as a freelance contributor. He has written for National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, theWashington Post Magazine and more. He has developed and conducted numerous journalism training programs, including during the time he was a Knight International Press Fellow in Algiers (2006), and a 2011 program in Gabon.
Development in Media and Media Development: Toward a New African Narrative for New Times
Her Excellency Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim
G.C.S.K., C.S.K., Ph.D., D.Sc.
President, Republic of Mauritius
At the Opening of Seventh African Media Leaders Forum;
Birchwood Conference Centre
Members of the Media, Citizen Journalists and Bloggers
following this Conference
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Good morning. It is a pleasure to be back in South Africa, and a privilege to address the Seventh African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF).
I congratulate AMLF and the African Media Initiative on their choice of locale. South Africa occupies a unique position in the African imagination and ethos.
South Africa’s political transition – from a reviled apartheid state to a beacon of democracy – is a remarkable story, and a continuing source of inspiration for all Africans and the world.
As South Africa’s evolution shows, the path to democracy can be rocky but at such times it is reassuring to recall how South Africans have demonstrated that truth and reconciliation can go hand in hand, and how some of the deepest scars of the past can be erased.
Through generosity of spirit, South Africans have shown how adversity and racial division can be overcome with compassion, determination and empathy allowing for greater fulfilment of the human potential.
The recent discovery of Homo Naledi in the Rising Star caves – not far from the venue of this Forum – has added a completely new dimension to our understanding of our own origins and evolution while once again underscoring the centrality of South Africa in human affairs.
When Eric Chinje invited me to address this Forum, I accepted his kind invitation with trepidation.
As a newly-elected President of Mauritius, former business entrepreneur and lifelong scientist, I pondered what new insights could I share with the African continent’s media leaders and add value to the deliberations at this Forum?
After all, I am more at home in the quietude of medicinal plants than in the frenzied 24/7 world of media headlines, bylines and deadlines.
Well, Eric was his usual persuasive self and quickly dispelled any residual doubts by convincing me that the overarching purpose of this Forum is to shape conversations on development in Africa and chart a new, more hopeful narrative about the African continent.
So, I am here to help with that task, and appreciate the opportunity to address this distinguished Forum.
To set the context for my remarks, I would like to begin by describing the current development landscape. Since the Forum is looking at media in a digital environment, I will outline the profound nature of the ICT revolution and its potential, and conclude by highlighting the common areas where science and media intersect, and how they can be natural allies for achieving the common good.
Seen against this backdrop, the time is opportune to ask several key questions. What role African media can play in shaping evidence-based conversations about development? At a time of rapid transformation, how can a more positive and hopeful narrative emerge? Are African media up to the task of creating the space for participatory citizenship to take hold and drive the conversations needed to sustain Africa’s positive trends?
Finally, I would like to use my pulpit to call for a more hopeful, people- and development-centered narrative that can be embraced by all Africans.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we meet at a consequential time in Africa’s evolution.
Africa, south of the Sahara, is undergoing unprecedented economic, social and cultural transformations.
Let me begin with the good news.
Economic growth rates are up – the World Bank projects Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) GDP growth rate to average 4.1 percent in 2015. Estimates show that growth will remain strong in Africa’s low-income countries, which bodes well for the fight against poverty, hunger, malnutrition and disease.
A commodities boom, improved governance, sound macroeconomic fundamentals, commitment to reform and new resource discoveries have all contributed to this robust growth trend, helping to reverse 20 years of economic decline.
We are making progress in education and health. Between 2000 and 2008, secondary school enrollment increased by 50 percent, and life expectancy has increased by 10%.
The continent is open for business.
I was particularly pleased that Mauritius, with a global ranking of 32, was cited as the region’s highest ranked economy in terms of ease of doing business.
As we all know, Ebola has dominated the headlines and exacted a heavy toll in human suffering on the populations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Economic losses alone from the Ebola crisis are expected to top $30 billion with far reaching impacts.
And there is good news from West Africa. In early September, the World Health Organization declared Liberia to be free of the Ebola virus. And last week, Sierra Leone has also been declared Ebola free.
But these welcome trends have to be seen against the backdrop of sobering facts, making the proverbial glass half-full.
Changes in demography, high population growth rates, rapid urbanization, slumping commodity prices are all posing major challenges, threatening to reverse hard-won development gains.
I would be remiss if I did not address climate change and the fundamental threat it poses to balanced development in SSA.
Food production in SSA will need to increase by 60% over the next 15 years, and yet the agriculture sector will be hit hardest. Without adaptation, Africa will suffer severe yield declines in important food growing areas. Extreme weather events are increasing, in frequency as well as intensity.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is only a fleeting snapshot of the major challenges facing our continent. There are more. As a scientist, I lament that SSA with 12% of the global population only accounts for less than 1% of the world’s research output. And that no African nation was among the top 20 countries filing for patent applications in 2013.
Let me now turn briefly to the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) revolution underway, and the portents it holds for sustainable development of the African continent.
One of the dominating features of the 21st century is the remarkable growth and ubiquity of global communications, affecting all facets of human endeavor. Today, we take instantaneous communication for granted.
The rapid rise of social media has been breathtaking, with Facebook ready to enter the history books as the third largest “country” of “netizens” numbering over one billion and counting. New ICT technologies have led to the new field of bioinformatics and genomics, a development that was instrumental in the decoding of the human genome.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute’s report “Big Data: the next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity” in 2010, people stored enough data to fill 60,000 Libraries of Congress. YouTube uploads more than 24 hours of video every minute. The world’s 4 billion users of mobile phones – 12 percent of whom own smart phones – have turned themselves into data streams.
The World Bank’s next World Development Report will focus on the theme of “Digital Dividends.” Some of its early findings: there are 4.2 billion Google searches each day. 6000 tweets go out every second.
Success stories abound. From Kenya’s M-pesa to Senegal’s Sonatel and Mali’s Ikon telemedicine program, we are witnessing remarkable strides African countries are taking in mobilizing ICT for national development, improving governance, boosting accountability and positively impacting people’s lives.
And we are yet to see the full contours of the “Internet of Things” that is fast emerging, linking devices, people and data in ways unthinkable a few years ago.
The surge in communication capability is unprecedented in human history. Our collective challenge is to mold these tremendous forces and bring them to bear on the common, everyday problems facing Africans.
Science and Media
The famous mathematician and scientist, late Alfred North Whitehead, said “The aims of scientific thought are to see the general in the particular and the eternal in the transitory.”
The key words are about seeing the “general” in the “particular” and the “eternal” in the “transitory.”
Like science, media can be a powerful force for the common good. The ability to search for truth, based on evidence, is a fundamental aspect of journalism. Discerning trends, locating stories in their local contexts, connecting the dots, speaking truth to power without fear of retribution, these are all about seeing the general in the particular. Similarly, development is about people. That fact is eternal.
Back to the Future
I have painted a broad canvas so to conclude let me take recourse to the writings of Rabindranath Tagore, India’s famous literary giant, poet and Nobel laureate who described the quest for a promised land in his magisterial poem “Gitanjali”:
Where the mind is held without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led … into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom … let my country awake.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I believe that science and the practice of journalism, supported by a new, more hopeful, Africa-centric narrative can help propel us forward in the journey to our promised land.
Both science and journalism can play an important role in Africa’s transformation by paving the journey with words that draw their strength from truth, where the search for perfection and quality reporting is never-ending, and where evidence is used to strengthen stories, influence policies and backstop our research endeavors, whether at the news desk, in laboratories or class rooms.
Like science, the best of journalism can only arise when it is practiced without fear of retribution.
Good journalism is a barometer of society. It can shine the light of scrutiny on Africa’s efforts to achieve sustainable development, showcasing development successes and pinpointing failures so that we can learn from them, adapt and innovate.
Done right, journalism with a social purpose and geared toward the common good can help transform our economies, spur innovation in newsrooms and laboratories, improve our economic and social prospects and help the continent to thrive so that all Africans can dream of better tomorrows. It will also help media owners to meet corporate objectives and make a profit.
So what will it take to craft a more hopeful, Africa-centric narrative?
To media owners, I urge you to invest in your journalists, they are the future of the news business. By building journalism capacity, you will unleash talent, build human capability and lay the foundations for viable businesses and deliver profits.
Africa needs a cadre of young people, brimming with ideas and zeal, with story-telling skills who choose media and journalism not for the glamor it holds – but for its potential to nurture development and positively impact society.
Why is it important to attract youth? Let me cite an example from the world of science. By age 23, Issac Newton had made three of the greatest discoveries in science: the Differential Calculus, the Composition of Light and the Laws of Gravitation. All this when in the summer of 1665, his academic base in Cambridge had to be evacuated on account of the plague!
To journalists, both current and aspiring, I implore you to focus your reporting skills on promoting sustainable development in Africa. There are scores of human-interest stories waiting to be told, every day people who are beating the odds and making improvements in the lives of their families.
The development challenges confronting Africa far surpass the capability of any one country to tackle them alone. African journalists can and must become the voice of change and help the continent to become a producer, not just a consumer of knowledge.
It is said the media cannot help us to think, but that media can be stunningly successful in telling us what to think about!
Here the agenda-setting function of the media can serve media owners and journalists alike.
African media – owners and practitioners – must be active, not passive in tackling development topics, generating local solutions while nurturing citizen engagement and development debate. We must all become activists, not pacifists in the search for Africa-centric development solutions that are economically viable, socially relevant and environmentally benign. Increasing the participation of women in media is key.
Next month, the international community will gather in Paris for the 21st meeting of the Convention of Parties to discuss climate change. I will have the privilege of leading my country’s delegation and making the case for the extreme vulnerability that a changing climate poses to the well-being of small island developing states.
Africa’s voice must be heard loudly and media have a central role to play in articulating positions and enabling African voices to be heard. Mobilizing cutting-edge knowledge and forging partnerships anchored in the common good for the benefit of all must become our guiding mantra.
And we must dare to dream and bend technology for social purpose. How can we increase development content in African media? And will it be mobile friendly, designed for a small screen?
Perceptions of Africa have changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Frequently viewed as a continent of wars, famines, and entrenched poverty in the late 1990s, there is now a focus on “Africa Rising” and an “African 21st Century.” Let us wrest this momentum and craft a positive, hopeful narrative and bend it for social purpose.
In September 2015, world leaders adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and helped set a bold, new development agenda for the next 15 years.
I believe now is the time to rededicate ourselves to achieving these goals by 2030. African media have a role – a significant one – to play in achieving the goals. Because sustainable development takes time, we cannot afford to fail yet another generation. In the words of President Obama, our actions must be guided by the ‘fierce urgency of now.’
Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To conclude, let me say unequivocally that media matter, both in development and for societal advance.
Let this Seventh edition of the AMLF become the launch pad for new ideas, new momentum, and a new narrative that takes us forward, toward greater transparency, more effective government and more engaged citizens.
Let us all strive to put the “D” of development firmly back in media. In doing so, we would also have furthered the cause of media development.
As Kofi Annan has said, “Africa is on its way to becoming a preferred investment destination, a potential pole of global growth, and a place of immense innovation and creativity. But there is also a long way to go — and Africa’s governments must as a matter of urgency turn their attention to those who are being left behind. I believe Africa and its leaders can rise to this challenge. If they do, Africa will become more prosperous, stable and equitable.”
Our time for action is now.
Thank you for your attention. I now formally declare the Forum open.
With the Aid & Development Africa Summit 2016 (2-3 February, UNCC, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia) fast approaching, you are invited to hear from internationally recognised experts, who will deliver invaluable insight into technological innovations and best practice to improve aid delivery and development strategy in East Africa, including:
Amongst other topics covered at the Aid & Development Africa Summit 2016:
There are only four weeks left and with over 250 participants already registered, book your place now to discover new innovations and benefit from dedicated networking opportunities.
To view complete speaker list and agenda, or to register your participation, please visit http://africa.aidforum.org
We look forward to welcoming you to the AIDF Africa Summit in February!
A new publication and resource tailored for media professionals in Africa has just been released by the European Journalism Centre (ECJ) and Kenya’s AfricaOnAir. The new release is a Reporting Development Guide version of the original one authored by veteran Reuters journalist Oliver Wates and aims to act as a key and timely resource for journalists at the Pan-African level. The guide and its release are part of the EJC’s multi-year commitment to media development in Kenya and is funded through the MFSII instrument of the Netherlands Foreign Ministry in The Hague.
An online version of Reporting Development: A Guide for African Journalists is available for free here.
AFRICAN MEDIA LEADERS FORUM CHARTS NEW PATHWAYS TO JOURNALISTIC EXCELLENCE:
Action Plan Focuses on Media Development and Greater Engagement for Sustainable Development of the Continent
Johannesburg, Nov 17, 2015 – More than 600 media leaders met at the 7th African Media Leaders Forum during November 11-13 to review new opportunities arising from digital technologies and charted a forward-looking action plan for media development on the continent.
“Africa is on the cusp of unprecedented economic, cultural and social transformations,” said Eric Chinje, CEO, African Media Initiative (AMI). “African media have a central role to play in catalyzing sustainable development on the continent and securing sustainable growth of the media sector. At Birchwood Hotel and conference Center, we took an evidence-based approach to secure a better future for African media and improve the everyday lives of Africans.”
A highlight of the Forum was a keynote address by H.E. Dr. Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, President of the Republic of Mauritiu, and a welcome address by Hon. Jeff Radebe, Minister in the Presidency, South Africa.
The 19 Zimeo Excellence in Media Awards 2015 announced at the Forum mark a new push to drive excellence in media and support the sustainable development agenda for the continent. A record 557 entries in 22 categories were received from across the continent and were assessed by a pan-African complement of judges and jurors.
The Forum tasked AMI with exploring the establishment of a publicly-financed “Special Fund for Media Development,” whose core purpose will be to strengthen journalism capacity in Africa’s low-income countries. Plans are underway to establish an electronic “African Media Cooperative” that would pool news stories and improve knowledge-sharing among media houses. A new initiative to strengthen coverage of African elections and boost reporting capacity was announced. To harness the latest knowledge and leverage technology, AMI will seek collaboration with the U.S. Newspaper Publishers Association.
The AMLF is convened by the Nairobi-based African Media Initiative (AMI) and marks the largest gathering of its type of African media owners and professionals. The next AMLF will be held in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in November 2016 and venue and dates will be announced after consultation with the Ivorian authorities.
All Forum materials are available online on the AMI website,www.africanmediainitiative.org
Johannesburg, 13th November 2015-Sixteen journalists have been recognized for their exemplary work in reporting on development issues in Africa at the first edition of the Zimeo Excellence in Media Awards held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The awards also recognized institutions that support the development of viable media across Africa, and media organizations that exemplify the adoption and application of best practice in governance and leadership. South Africa led the winners list with four awardees, followed by Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and Nigeria with three each.
The competition, the latest addition to the array of services offered by the African Media Initiative, received more than 500 entries from print, broadcast and online journalists. A technical team reviewed the entries and submitted its initial short list to independent panels of judges representing east, west, central, south and north Africa.
Speaking at the awards ceremony at the Birchwood Hotel & OR Tambo Conference Centre in the East Rand area of Johannesburg, judging coordinator and head of the technical team Wangethi Mwangi noted that “Zimeo is a new kind of competition because it doesn’t intend to confer the title of journalist of the year. Instead, it seeks to identify journalism excellence in the various sectors of development on which society’s survival hinges.”
Competition judge Joachim Buwembo noted: “The winning stories were unique in their approach, and helped create interest in daily phenomena. The effective use of citizens’ voices and the exploration of the complexities – social, economic, and more- makes the stories a great example of quality journalism on the continent.”
African Media Initiative CEO Eric Chinje congratulated the winners and thanked the awards sponsors for their continued investment in journalism on the continent. “The entries,” he said, “were quite diverse in terms of subject matter, quality and relevance to the continent’s development agenda. At AMI, we are excited to launch these awards and look forward to growing the competition in the years to come.”
The winners of the first Zimeo Excellence in Media Awards are:
OSISA Award for Excellence in Media: Data Journalism Reporting
Zimeo Award for Excellence in Media: Millennium and Sustainable Development Goals Coverage
Cherif Sy Award for Excellence in Media: Peace and security Reporting
Open Society Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Technology Reporting
Zimeo Award for Excellence in Media: Infrastructure Reporting
The Rockefeller Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Agriculture and food security Reporting
Zimeo Award for Excellence in Media: Education Reporting
Zimeo Award for Excellence in Media: Energy Reporting
Nation Media Group Award for Excellence in Media: Maritime Economy Reporting
African Wildlife Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Environment and Conservation Reporting
Ford Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Gender Reporting
Ecobank Award for Excellence in Media: Health Reporting
African Development Bank Award for Excellence in Media: Natural Resources Reporting
Dr. Ameena Gurib- Fakim Award for Excellence in Media: Science Reporting
United Bank for Africa Award for Excellence in Media: Business and Finance Reporting
The Rockefeller Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Youth Reporting
The other categories, recognizing media support institutions and media organizations, are:
Mo Ibrahim Foundation Award for Excellence in Media: Governance and Leadership
Maria Kiwanuka Award for Excellence in Media: African public institutions that support Media
The Zimeo Excellence in Media Awards judging panels were led by Chief Judges Dapo Olorunyomi, Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of Premium Times, Nigeria; Professor Levi Obonyo, Dean, School of Communications, Languages and Performing Arts at Daystar University, Kenya; Agnès Kraidy, senior journalist at Fraternité Matin, Cote d’Ivoire; veteran Cameroonian journalist Alex Gustave Azebaze; Michael Didama, Managing Editor, Le Temps newspaper in Chad; veteran journalist Joachim Buwembo of Uganda; Kafu Kofi Tsikata, Senior Communications Specialist at World Bank in Ghana; and Tunisian-based Lotfi Madani, former Chief Communications Specialist at the African Development Bank.
For further information, please contact:
Communications Officer, African Media Initiative
The 7th Edition of the African Media Leaders Forum (AMLF), Johannesburg, South Africa
November 12, 2015
Your excellencies, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends, ladies and gentlemen: welcome to the seventh edition of the African Media Leaders Forum and the first to take place in the southern half of the continent. Thank you, South Africa, and thank you Johannesburg for hosting us this week.
For those among us who pray, I will pause for a second for you to intercede with the one you pray to, to give us the wisdom to make of this gathering a successful convergence of the minds on the things that we must do to strengthen the role of media in our changing African society.
We have a fairly unique gathering here today and I hope we succeed in making this a unique event. We have a Head of State who is unique in many ways within the African leadership constellation; we have a member of the top leadership of the United Nations; we have a most effacing member of the elite club of Nobel Prize winners; we have globally recognized authors and academics, and we have some of the continent’s top media leaders in the room today.
We are gathered here to discuss a subject that was defined after extensive consultation with media leaders across Africa: “Shaping Development Conversations in Africa: the Role of Media in a Digital Environment.” Respondents seemed to have reacted to the findings of a survey we carried out last year that concluded, in essence, that media was generally absent from discussions on major quality-of-life issues in Africa and they wanted us to put that on the agenda. An equally high number wanted us to focus on the critically important question of where technology was taking the media industry. We decided to combine the two questions and came up with what will be the focus of the next two days of deliberations..
We all agree that media in Africa continues to face some daunting challenges. Political opening and technological innovation in the last two decades resulted in an unprecedented expansion of media, bringing in new and often ill-prepared players into the industry. These developments brought to the fore some previously latent issues of capacity, professionalism, financing, technological adaptation, regulation, and management. The quality of journalism dipped, the place of the journalist in society slipped, and the role of media in accompanying the social, economic and political transformations became open to question.
AMI was established some eight years ago to help drive the search for solutions to the problems of the industry. The need for a structure of this nature was identified in one of the most extensive research projects ever carried out on media and at the behest of the 2005 summit meeting in Gleneagle, Scotland, of the Group of Eight.
AMI came into being in 2008 and has since incubated ideas that are helping redefine the African media landscape: the leadership and guiding principles that emphasize ethics in journalism; the Story Challenge that is driving quality content production; the Digital Innovation Programme that seeks to mainstream innovation and technological adaptation in the industry, and the AMLF itself. AMI has supported such initiatives as Code4Africa, Africa Check, and others as a way to improve the quality of media in Africa.
The organization is moving on today to strengthen and deepen the work of media professionals. It is working to encourage the creation of platforms for knowledge-sharing across Africa and build practice communities around those issues that citizens care the most about. It is leading the effort to capture, package and share the Africa Story. We are engaged in a process to help media find its purpose in 21st century Africa!
I invite you today, ladies and gentlemen of the press, to open your minds to the possibilities of a new journalism that not only innovates but supports innovation in a modernizing continent; that not only grows but underscores growth and development of society; that not only generates the ideas that are the engine of social transformation but also moderates the debates that must sustain these societal changes.
Media does not exist for media’s sake alone! It cannot be all about some vague notion of power and a Fourth Estate, or about choosing winners and losers in politics, or about celebrating victors in sports or about celebrity gossip. The focus of media should not be only on survival strategies and financial gain, or about politics and corruption. There has to be a purpose that is bigger, nobler and more elevating! We need a new, collective and disruptive consciousness of the role of the media in Africa today.
So I invite you, once more, to see the challenges you face through the prism of the greater challenges that our continent faces, and to commit yourselves to contributing to the greater good by doing that which media does best: building an informed citizenry! You cannot inform if you are not informed! You cannot tell a story you do not know or understand! Your media organization cannot grow sustainably if the society in which it operates and our economies do not grow. You cannot gain the trust and respect of society if you are not driven by the urge to contribute to making society better. You will not regain the luster of a noble profession if your professional ethics are open to question and your mission is seen to be narrow and self-serving.
As we seek purpose in media, who else to tell us but our readers and audiences, consumers of the media product? Are we reaching out enough to them? Are we engaging them as we should: talking to the farmer in the rural community, to the young graduate seeking her first job in a tough labour market, to the entrepreneurs who is on a growth trajectory or the one who has fallen on hard times? Are we talking to the teacher and the pupil, the doctor and the patient, the judge and the prisoner? Do we know those we serve and strive to meet their needs?
These questions and much else will inform our discussions over the next couple of days. Let us take them on with clairvoyance and humble determination to find those answers that will allow us to strengthen media in Africa and accompany and strengthen 21st century transformations on the continent.
I thank you!