Wednesday, October 19, 2011

HA’11: Galvanising African media for sustainable dev.

A four-day annual Highway Africa recently ended in Cape Town, South Africa, REMMY NWEKE, reports that Nigeria once again illuminate the award session, the confab drummed support for COP-17.
The 2011 annual Highway Africa conference may have ended in the city of Cape Town, South Africa, but the memories and essence cannot be forgotten in a hurry.
The four-day conference which commenced on September 16 has the theme: African Media and the Global Sustainability Challenge; was held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CTICC) with over 500 journalists with precise enthusiasm in reporting and coverage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Highway Africa 2011 also held simultaneously with the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) sponsored Climate Change Colloquium, the Pan Africa Conference on Access to Information and the Digital Citizens’ Indaba.

Welcoming participants, the Director, Highway Africa, Mr. Chris Kabwato, noted that it has been an incredible journey for him in the past eight years, but believes he has the Highway Africa DNA. He pointed out that Highway now has several other programmes running under it, namely the research, education & training via Future Journalists Programme (FJP); conference itself and Digital Citizen Indaba and Report Development Network Africa (rDNA).
Joyously, Kabwato declared that his team has not been still as the project is now moving into a distinct entity he called ‘Highway Africa Center’ with the support of the Rhodes University, the School of Journalism and Media Studies as well as sponsors of the annual event, stressing that this move would take Highway Africa to another level.
“So, in the 15th year of our existence, we celebrate what we have collectively achieved and look forward to the next fifteen years. Celebrate with us – comrades and friends,” he said, expressing the hope that participants would learning, sharing and taking action t save the world.

Aligning Highway to COP 17
Kabwato said HA’11 is in line with the forthcoming United Nation’s organized Climate Change, tagged COP 17, due to hold in Durban, South Africa in November this year.
He noted that with the dramatic melting down of the glaciers of the arctic, the droughts ravaging the continent, the floods in the Americas and a temperature rising may have provided drama for television and other media, but the issue of global sustainability calls for drastic and comprehensive response from the media.
He pointed out that whereas the international media as represented by the various broadcasting networks have woken up to the stark challenge facing the world, Africa media remains hesitant and unhurried in training its eye on the sustainability challenge. Thus, holding of the UNFCCC COP 17 Climate meeting in Durban, this November would provide African media and other key stakeholders a unique opportunity to  galvanise various key actors.
For the deputy head, School of Journalism and Media Studies, Rhodes University, Prof. Herman Wasserman, this year’s Highway Africa conference calls for celebration and reflection, noting that the largest gathering of the continental journalists, needs to reflect on what has certainly become one or the most pressing challenges of our time; the Challenge of Sustainable Development in Africa in the face of Climate Change.

Relevant theme for HA’11:
According to him, the theme is highly relevant as South Africa warms up to host the UNFCC COP 17 Climate Meeting in November, pointing out that African media have a key role to play in putting and keeping – sustainable development and climate change on the news agenda.
He said that for the continent that is ‘least responsible, most affected, least informed’ as described in a 2009 study by the BBC World Service Trust, media’s role in contributing to public understanding of climate change is crucial.
He emphasized that it’s not only journalists that need to reflect on how they could meet the challenges of informing citizens, stimulating debate and deepening understanding of how climate change affects the society, a collaboration between media practitioners and academics will be of increasing importance.

Media collaboration imperative for COP 17
Wasserman explained that it’s in line with this that the Research Unit for Media in the Global South, located within the School of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes, is hosting a climate change colloquium alongside this year Highway Africa conference.
These collaborations between journalists, scholars and educators are the example of the strategic partnerships and collaboration that a challenge as complex as sustainability and climate change requires.

Africa needs catch-up:
However, speaking at the event, South African new media entrepreneur, Mr. Koos Bekker urged African media and practitioners to innovate with the new media based on the Internet technologies.
He also declared that the future warfare is on the Internet, and Africa requires quick catch-up with Internet exploration to meet the global sustainability challenges of its media and people.
Bekker in his keynote which dwelt on ‘How do we innovate in the media’ said that in this era, media needs to be innovative in order to catch-up with technologies that are unveiled into the market place at short intervals.
According to him, apart from reporting these innovations, media needs to be part of the trend so as to increase viability to the citizenry.
As part of the revelations, Bekker said that media should embrace Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and in particular the new media technologies based on the Internet and mobile devices.

The future warfare
For him, the future of media is in the new media which hinges on the Internet evolution in Africa, insisting that African countries must open up their Internet space to pave the way for more people to come in and get involved.
 “The future ware is on the Internet,” he asserted, noting that all the ages, innovators are not the techies but simply inspired people who want to make a difference.
Additionally, he said, that none of the known innovators are the originators of the concept that eventually made them popular and wealthy at the same time, just as he tasked media practitioners on the continent to be innovative.

New Media Awards
The climax of the Highway Africa 2011 was the presentation of several awards to deserving individual and organizations, with Nigeria lightening up the evening for Africa as it carted home most awards.
Excited Nigerian Information Minister, Mr. Labaran Maku, who was in attendance smiled all evening as he made presentations to four Nigerian awardees.
Commenting on the award, Maku commended the management of DSA, publishers of NaijaAgroNet alongside other awardees, for the all initiative and invited more Nigerians to emulate such steps to sustain the tempo of good image for the nation.
Maku made the presentation in the company of the Vice Chancellor of Rhodes University, Grahamstown, Dr. Saleem Badat and Group Executive Director, Telkom, Mrs. Brenda Kali among others.

Nigerian pride!
Some of the awardees include NaijaAgroNet, Africa Online, AthleticsAfrica and Mr. Ojo Edet of Nigerian Media Rights Agenda for his dogged fight to ensure that his nation’s Freedom of Information Bill was passed.
Responding after receiving the award, the Executive Director, Operations, DigitalSENSE Africa, Mrs. Nkemdilim Nweke, expressed gratitude to God Almighty for his mercies, especially considering the fact that NaijaAgroNet was an initiative that berthed a few months ago.
This award, she said, indicates there is a brighter future for online revolution in the most populous nation on the continent and the world generally.
The event which held at the Cape Town International Conference Centre (CICC), also saw Nigeria emerging finalists in all the three categories, namely the individual, student and corporate at the award supported by the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), and Telkom South Africa.
As the dates for UNFCC Cop 17 draw near, African media need to keep up the tempo even after the Durban conference billed for next month.

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