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How Media Changes the Face of Africa

Two weekends ago was the annual Highway Africa Conference in Grahamstown, held at the prestigious Rhodes University. This years conference, the 19th edition, highlighted some of the key issues that seem to plague journalism in Africa as a whole; issues like type of media relevant to local people, stories by the average person, how ICT and local governments can play a role in the mediums that can be optimized to get news out there, and whether the voices of people are being heard and portrayed in such a way that they reflect the true nature and culture of the everyday “struggling” African.
The conference’s proceedings showed glaring evidence that the media and local governments need to work together now more than ever to write an African story that is positive, honest, objective, factual and helps to develop the continent, rather than repel its audience. It’s imperative that we  reconsider what works for and what works against the people, in so far as the continent itself is concerned. The theme for this year’s conference was: Journalism In The City.
In a brief interview after the Sunday morning Keynote address proceedings, Secretary General of the United Cities Local Government of Africa, Jean Pierre Elong-Mbassi made a profound statement referring specifically to the tendency for media reporting in Africa. He mentioned that African journalists tended towards blaming or finding fault in matters, without much appreciation, recognition or praise of the more positive kinds of stories.

How the world views Africa

One of the honored speakers at the keynote address Ron Nixon, a Washington correspondent of the New York Times, whom at the book launch of his book called “Selling Apartheid” stated that in the United States, Africa is a country rather than a continent. Therefore in such cases as the now controlled Ebola virus, people perceived it as an African disease, without differentiating it to specified countries within. In the advent of the socio-political crisis parts of Africa is experiencing, one must wonder what impact this has on the global market. Tawana Kupe, an English lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe and Research Fellow at the University of Oslo in Norway, sees three main reasons why the media is not rooted in the societal life of Africa.
1.Print media favours those who can read and write and have the basic form of purchasing power and access
2.Many African countries have one major national daily, available mainly in the capital cities like the Swazi Observer newspaper, which represents 50% of the print media market in Swaziland.
3.African news seem to be used more for its entertainment rather than to inform, to teach or improve living conditions/ standards of people

ICT boosting access to media

Technology is fast becoming the medium that will be utilized for media moving forward. The days when print media will be delivered to the people are almost over. Everything will be readily available on the net. It is arguable that information that was previously regarded as “inaccessible” will now be at your disposal with just one click of a button. Nigeria boasts the most free and resilient newspaper press than any other African country. This may be a great for the generation of millennials, but not so much for the local people.
In hindsight, with the partnership between Highway Africa and Telkom, better connection, better coverage and quality content is be expected. Speaking at the Telkom-Highway Africa Awards and Gala Dinner ceremony (30 of August), Jacqui O Sullivan emphasized how this kind of partnership was built on a common goal of putting out the most qualified content so that people can get the “right” stories, at the right time, in the right way. Their part of the deal will be to create, develop and maintain broadband access in Africa.
In the end, the aim is to localize media, informing our own continent before we can tell the rest of the world the ultimate African story. The Africities Summit couldn’t have come at a better time. Elong-Mbassi explained the summit as a platform that will bring key cities and their local governments together, in order to find a solution on how to better drive people-centred governance. He believes that the people are the true narrators of the state of cities, and that local governments need to work hand in hand with their local communities.