Wednesday, September 09, 2009

HA-09: Communicators tasked on ICT interface for Africa

African media practitioners have been charged to find an alternative of interfacing between the continent and global development agendas.

The vice chancellor of Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa, Dr. Saleem Badat gave this charge at his opening address to the 13th Highway Africa Conference, which commenced on Monday in the school campus, Grahamstown.

The theme of the three-day conference on ‘Reporting Africa: 2010, Development and Democracy’ directly speaks to Africans and media practitioners in particular on the opportunities and challenges that confront continent at the moment.

“But how are media professionals framing the interface of African and global development agendas? What are your narratives of the global financial crisis in terms of causes and effects, opportunities and threats?” he asked.

Wondering how African media professionals understand the future of African development in the light of the challenges against the orthodox thinking on economic development and the supremacy of the ‘free’ market?

Overtly proffering a solution, Dr. Badat said that Highway Africa provides a wonderful platform for these and other important questions to be answered positively.
Journalists and media practitioners on the continent, he said, should report on development, they must understand what development is all about in order to make good and also is what keeps academia and journalists in common.

He advised that African journalists to embrace wide issues; of culture and political issues, stressing that on the issues of ownership and inequity as well as concerned with the expansion of human rights issues

“Development is ultimately the process of expanding the real freedom that people enjoy,” he said.

Historically, experience had showed that catching up and defining development is not in unison, especially at the period of economic growth are actually worsening the inequity among the people.

In Africa, he noted, at times its impossible to tie emancipation of democracy to development; people must be feed before they could think of development, which suggests that development proceeds democracy.

According to him, each year hundreds of media professionals, academics, students and activists trek to city of Grahamstown for the Highway Africa Conference, of which the university is privileged to host as participants debate, share ideas, network, educate and train.

“I also welcome the educators from the rest of Africa and abroad who will be holding parallel meetings to the conference in preparation for the World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC) in July 2010. Rhodes is honoured and tremendously excited to host the WJEC,” he declared.

He pointed out that the annual Highway Africa Conference is proudly the flagship event of the university, and Rhodes would continuously support to encourage growth and evolution.

“This growth would not have been possible without the generous support of our partners, who include the Department of Communications, the SABC, corporate sponsors, donor agencies, foundations and individuals. I especially thank the staff of the School of Journalism and Media Studies who work creatively and tirelessly to make the Highway Africa Conference possible,” he said.

While wishing participants from across the continent a successful and productive conference, the South African Minister of Communications, General Siphiwe Nyanda (retired) noted that his office has been a key partner of the Highway Africa Conference for the last ten years.

“That we should partner with a Pan-African conference stems from our strong belief that the media is a key stakeholder in society because journalists have to inform and educate our people on the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) developments unfolding on the continent and on how the ordinary citizen stands to benefit in terms of access and affordability,” he said.

Nyanda expressed glad that this conference takes place when Africa has two key developments on the continent, namely the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the commissioning of several fibre optic cables around the continent.

“As we head for the 2010 FIFA World Football Cup, I am convinced that Africa will deliver the best tournament ever, and part of that success will be as a result of the technological infrastructure we are putting in place now,” he said.

In addition, he pointed out that the South African government and other key stakeholders who are exerting all their energies, skills, resources and passion into this unique opportunity for South Africa and Africa, will see to the greater success of the continent.

Reiterated the support of the DoC to Highway Africa beyond 2010, he said, stressing it will continue to play its part in the debates, plans and implementation programmes on ICT, in the context of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU).

“As we do this, we hope that you, the African journalists, will tell the stories of our people – their hopes, potential and progress – and what role ICT will play in realizing these dreams,” the Minister submitted.

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