Reporting NEPAD: Implications for African journalism

What is the western media saying about Africa is one thing, but how African media report on Africa is something else and far more important. Lillian Ndangam and Andrew Kanyegire, post-doctoral students at Rhodes, are presenting a talk on how Africa sees itself. It’s a really fast presentation as time is running short, so forgive the incomplete note-taking.

NEPAD, the development framework of the African Union, is ‘African-owned’ and emphasizes home-grown solutions to African issues. It can be seen as an organization, a framework or as a program. Its priorities are ICTs, culture, agriculture, culture, human resource development, youth and infrastructure. Its national emphasis doesn’t seem to come through.

It operates on global, regional and national levels. It has been criticized by civic society, academics and the media as being elitist.

Ndangam and Kanyegire used to analyze 27 African papers. The bulk of the coverage came from Nigerian papers, followed by South Africa, then eastern Africa. Countries actively involved in NEPAD have had greater coverage, which leads to questions about whether the process is fair for all, and whether those left out of the process are getting enough information.

In terms of story coverage, only one covered gender issues.

Only 28 of 55 countries have signed up to NEPAD, and fewer have joined the process of peer review. Coverage tends to be skewed to reporting on their national leaders’ involvement. Business and civil society coverage is focused on their own interest in the process.

Coverage is event-based, with an emphasis on peer review summits. But those covered – and those serving as news sources – are elite and male. Other issues in the NEPAD framework – how to deal with issues such as the diaspora and brain drain, or cultural issues – aren’t getting covered.

The NEPAD process is hard to describe for journalists, and its complexity and numerous events pose a challenge in covering it all and keeping perspective. There is a need to cut across local, regional and national interests as well.

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