Africa must tell its own stories and in order for that to happen, media houses must genuinely work to transform the landscape to ensure that it is truly inclusive of more voices from the diverse nation, says Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.
Addressing the SADC Media Awards Thank You Gala Dinner at Freedom Park in Tshwane on Sunday, Minister Dlodlo encouraged South African media to extend their coverage of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional stories.
"We need to work together with SADC countries to popularise the projects that are underway in the SADC region, especially those that link and integrate our nations into the region," said Minister Dlodlo, addressing the SADC media, stakeholders and entities of the Department of Communications.
The SADC Council of Ministers established the annual SADC Media Awards in 1996, with a view to promote regional integration through information dissemination, as well journalism excellence in the region.
The South African Chapter Media Awards competition was launched in November 2003.
Minister Dlodlo said a media that is transformed will actively tell South African and SADC stories to build bridges between the citizens of sister SADC countries.
"We must also access the opportunities brought about through the prevailing fourth industrial revolution.
"Digital and social media have the potential to make stronger connections between citizens of the region. The media in South Africa should start to show an interest in matters of the region and to take SADC issues seriously."
The Minister has also encouraged the media to inform citizens about the outcomes of the 37th SADC Summit, which has just been held under the theme "Partnering with the Private Sector in Developing Industry and Regional Value Chains".
She said the media must inform citizens, especially the youth about what the outcomes mean for them in practical terms.
Minister Dlodlo said the good story represented by the emergence of a strong SADC industrial region as witnessed in the discussions over this weekend's 37th Summit, requires a media which are active partners in proactively raising awareness and educating the public, both domestically and across the region, of the massive opportunities facing the nearly 230 million people who call SADC home.
About 60% of this group are below the age of 35, and the Minister made a clarion call to the media and communication sector to start thinking of how these demographics should shape Africa and its narrative.
"Let us therefore make sure that we use the media and communication as tools and make a difference to the citizens of the SADC region."
Community media especially Community Radio and various genres or alternative media, are where young 'SADCites' are consuming their news and sharing their stories.
Communication has been identified as a critical growth area in the SADC industrialization plan on Sunday. The Minister said it is incumbent upon professionals in the industry to see how practically, they can seize these emerging new horizons.
The socio-economic development of SADC is inextricably linked to the futures of that of the Continent.
Minister Dlodlo said the programmes of SADC and its member countries support the "Africa we want - our Africa rising", which uses Agenda 2063 is a collective roadmap for the socio-economic transformation of Africa.
Reiterating the Minister's words, the Acting Deputy Director-General at Government Communication and Information System, Michael Currin, said African stories need to be told by Africans.
He said SADC has moved from institutionalisation and building its mechanism, to delivering a programme to radically unlock the potential for employment and growth.
"As we strengthen the partnership with media, it is our conviction that media have a huge role with government communicators to popularise the work that all SADC states are implementing.
Speaking in terms of media freedom, Currin said the South African government has always advocated for free media as a country.
He said South Africa's system of democracy, openness and accountability strengthens the media's contribution towards moving the country forward by shaping public narrative, creating an informed citizenry, and strengthening democracy.
"We have always encouraged our media to tell positive African stories whenever they find them. The industrialisation programme is a massive positive SADC story that is boosting the economic and regional development and has much potential to better the lives of regional citizens.
"As Member States, we have the daunting task of affording the people of the SADC Region the opportunity to become architects of their destiny through communication and information flow."
He has encouraged all journalists in the SADC region to continue to cover stories that promote regional integration.
Livhuwani Mutshatshi read a report by the National Adjudication Committee, and encouraged more journalists to enter the competition in the coming years.
She said entries submitted in any native African language are welcome, but they should be accompanied by translated English or French transcripts.