Tunis — In current times of unprecedented technological and social change, media should reconstitute itself in order to stay relevant and respond to challenges, improving living conditions of Africans.
This was one of the issues discussed in an intense session. 'A coalition for Media development in Africa'. Media leaders looked at the renewed perspective from international and regional development institutions on strengthening and funding African media.
Session chair, World Bank's Eric Chinje said that apart from all things pivotal in growth and development in Africa, media needs to be supported in order to occupy developmental space. Listing important factors of growth and development in Africa, including infrastructure, health, and agriculture; Chinje emphasised that media constitutes the most important tool to facilitate transformation.
However, examining the content of media in Africa, the noticeable trend is that the poorer the country is, the wider the gap between what media serves the population and the real occurrences on the ground, compared to more developed countries. "We need to support media in many ways," said Chinje, elaborating the essence of the coalition between resource centres and the various media institutions- both traditional and new.
COALITION OF MEDIA
Keynote speaker, Frannie Leautier of the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF) said that media should not rely only on technology to efficiently deliver information.
"There should be a coalition of networks and capacity to organise, with different types of media forming a solid hub where the drive is not competition regarding which form of media is relevant, but unity in disseminating information. Delivering information does depend on technology but is not hostage to it," she explained.
The mobilization should be around strategy to build an African invention. "Where is Africa's Al Jazeera?" asked Bineka Diop, Executive Director of Femmes Africa Solidarites. Bineka spoke of building an alliance which will birth a powerful professional news network that will present African current affairs on Africa's terms. "Media has to monitor and ensure continued networking to construct (Africa's) image using social media," she said.
However, in order to do this, Africa needs to have "a regional integration mindset; individualism in this sense not sustainable," explained Paulo Games, Chief Executive Officer of the Constelor Group.
The pressing need is a strong union, followed by the belief in Africa, and financial assistance. "We need partnership between multilateral media systems, and commercial institutions; find one network, borderless and on a pan-African base," Games said.
CAPACITY BUILDING FOR COALITION
The African Development Bank is currently strengthening capacity building through holding seminars for developmental journalism. However, "Incumbent of all African states is that good governance must support of a free press," said Charles Boamah, Vice President of AfDB: Finance.
Boamah emphasised that the responsibility lies in radio, as it covers most grassroots rural areas, with the largest number of listeners being women. These women are more informed that those citizens who watch television or interact with social media, hence are pivotal to keep informing and sourcing for developments' purposes. 'Therefore financing in this instance entails looking at media development in a holistic matter; we need the press as partners," concluded Boamah.
Panelists engaged with issues of coalition of media for development and sustainability. Of course the continent's media and its vision for development still face rejections from state governance which sees it as a threat.
Chair of the Partnership Council of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Jay Naidoo said that the driver of all things is politics. "Governance is holding development back in Africa," and "governance is the key driver of whether we will succeed as a continent or fail."
He was referring to the latest Protection of Information Bill, that the South African government is ushering into policy, which will determine the selection of the information that is disseminated to the public - therefore preventing free media. This was viewed as a curb to development.
Bettina Peters of the Global Fund for Media Development summed up the coalition incentive and process as follows:
- Africa needs a voice
- A partnership must exist in the region
- Women empowerment pivotal in the development process and reporting thereof
- Financing media: economies of scale must be taken into account, entailing the amalgamation of the regions' media.
- Coalition: entails a Pan African Media Conference, as proposed at Highway Africa in Cape Town, September 2011.