Reporting Africa: African journalism and recent developments

SABC chairman Eddie Funde, who is chairing this session, in addition to the items on his resume, also has a history – as do many South African leaders today – in the anti-apartheid struggle. He led the ANC youth in the 1980s, and survived an assasination attempt where an Australian neo-Nazi tried to kill him with a shotgun.

Funde said one cannot avoid the amount of information from outside Africa that is bombarding Africans. It is critical for Africa to define itself in terms of its media and its image, he said. Nature does not allow a vacuum, he said. Africa cannot be passive in the current global environment.

Organizations like the African Union and NEPAD are starting to solve African issues; this is a mood that ought to be in the hearts and minds of those interpreting issues – the journalists. Media should define its own space, one that is empowered and self-sufficient, and able to face the world on its own terms. It’s going well so far, he said.

Mr. Njoacha (missed his first name) of the South African Department of Communications, is talking about the World Summit on Information Society and ICT for development. Whether WSIS meeting in Tunis will be a success is in question, he said, as major players have begun to lose their enthusiasm for the WSIS process.

More than 2 billion people worldwide lack electricity, Njoacha said. The gap in telecom resources between the developed and developing world shows that African infrastructure is far behind. 20 years ago, there were more telephones in Manhattan, for example, than in all of the third world combined.

New developments threaten to make the digital divide permanent. Fundamental questions exist whether the developed world will make efforts to even out the divide. Africans need to focus on deploying technologies necessary to end the vicious circle Africa finds itself in.

ICTs can be used to fight poverty and hunger, by advancing the goal of universal primary education. Young people can be mobilized and engaged to take part in global information society. So what will Africans do to promote these goals? How will ICTs empower women and promote gender equality? Will ICTs combat child mortality, AIDS and malaria, all of which are part of the UN’s Millenium Goals?

Interventions to ensure technology services are necessary – but especially those that promote the Millenium Goals. Technologies and collaborations that help to focus on these issues and goals are especially important.

Africans themselves need to challenge the perceptions that frequently prevent Africans from joining the ‘connected world’. The prejudices and misperceptions prevalent about Africa means that Africa gets a bad deal.

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