Monday, September 07, 2009

Highway Africa-09 sets South Africa agog, kicks off


The 2009 edition of the annual Highway Africa (HA-09) continental congress, has set the city of Grahamstown, South Africa agog, as it plays host to over 500 media practitioners with common interest in Information and Communication Technology (ICT).

The event which is on its 13th edition has as the theme, ‘Reporting Africa 2010, Development and Democracy’ and is organized as collaboration between Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), with the support of several other partners, development agencies and sponsors.

Highway Africa attracted a record attendance of 735 persons in 2008 and offers journalists reflection on 2010 in the New Media environment, just as the Highway Africa annual awards has been expanded to over five (5) categories in their ninth year, in effort to continuously recognise excellence in ICT journalism on the continent.

The Executive Director, Highway Africa, Mr. Chris Kabwato, noted that the continent would have journalism as a weapon which could translate to lightening up Africa when and where quality print media, quality radio, quality television and quality online media exist.

With the aforementioned, he said, African media would be able to rise above “the culture of mediocrity” and that was the concept behind the theme of this year.

He stressed that for 13 years, the Highway Africa conference has attempted to be a space where African journalism and media could be dissected, interrogated and celebrated.

“All in the hope that this could aid numerous other efforts to improve the state of our journalism and with the 2009 theme being ‘Reporting Africa 2010, Development & Democracy,’ I am looking forward to debates that would move us forward,” he said.

Mr. Kabwato also said that two key things are happening around the media that should challenge African journalism, namely, the global financial crisis and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

As said by him, the financial crisis invariably has shaken received wisdom on the unfettered reign of the market and requires a re-think on the nature of global capitalism, which is playing itself out in much of American and European media, just as most African media are eloquent with deafening silence.

“It is business as usual. Let others think for us,” he declared.

The Highway Africa boss, wondered that the World Cup is just months away, but “how different will be the Africans framing of the narrative of this soccer spectacle from that of the global media?” pointing out that these are important issues because, beyond the jingoism of post-modernism and other isms, Africa exists.

“Africa exists because we relate. Africa exists because we stand on its earth and our identities are contingent on that. Africa deserves great story-tellers and chroniclers. So, let us then have a great time talking, learning,” he urged.

In a related development, the two-day fourth Digital Citizen’s Indaba (DCI) ended weekend at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa.

The annual event which brings together bloggers, online and mobile journalists, citizen reporters, new media practitioners, online industry experts and civil society representatives, is aimed at encouraging citizen participation in debate about the state of digital media, information sharing and skills transfer using experts in the field.

“It encourages the use of new media take-up by non-journalists,” the school outreach officer, Rhodes School of Journalism and Media Studies, Khaya Thonjeni.
DCI theme for 2009 is ‘Digital civil society and journalism in Africa’.


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