Changing the perceptions on Africa starts with African media and communicators telling our own stories. We cannot expect others to tell our stories; it is up to us to show an interest in African issues and share our innovations and successes with the world. It is also time that we choose African media as primary sources rather than preferring sources that are outside the continent. For far too long we have allowed media which do not fully understand the complexities and challenges of our continent to tell our stories.
Africa month is an opportune time to display this leadership on owning and shaping our own narratives on the continent. These narratives include promoting African unity and showcasing our cultures as well as advance deeper regional economic integration. This month is wrapped around Africa Day 25 May, a day that marks the founding of the Organisation of Africa Unity, now known as the African Union, in 1963. An organisation that advocated for the struggle for liberation of the continent of Africa.
Initiatives such as Africa Communications Week provide the communications industry and the media fraternity with the space to reflect critically on the challenges facing the continent and find ways to shift Africa’s narrative to inspire hope for a better tomorrow, especially now within the context of the Coronavirus pandemic that continues to grip the world.. It is unfortunate that Africa’s image is often distorted and viewed through an unjust prism of corruption, disease, war and poverty. This distorted view is not only unmerited but also has a huge impact on the development of the continent and its people.
There are many good news stories we can tell the world and one of those is the continent’s quick response to fight the COVID-19 virus. It is through swift actions by our leaders that the number of infections and deaths recorded on the continent are far below the initial predictions which anticipated a catastrophe for our continent. Our quick response was supported by our longstanding experience in dealing with infectious diseases such as Ebola, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Yellow Fever, and this allowed us to avoid a larger number of fatalities.
The successful rollout of vaccines is dependent on communicators playing their part in creating effective communication campaigns and countering misinformation. We have a duty to protect the people of this continent from deliberate falsehoods, which could hamper our vaccination campaigns and ultimately, our recovery. The AU has declared 2021 as the “Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. Our rich cultural heritage and arts landscape are valuable assets we already own and should do more to harness the stories behind them and look to digitising our heritage as an endeavour of its preservation.
Some of the deliberations during Africa Communications Week will be to find better ways of managing access to South African media platforms and to alleviate the bureaucracy of listing press attaches based in South Africa and ensuring better access and movement for journalists across borders. Building effective networks and elevating the work GCIS has already started fostering extensive media networks across the continent and across the multiple language zones in Africa. Through virtual Media Webinars and solid one-on-one interactions with media practitioners, our database of African partner media and media formations has grown phenomenally.
Changing perceptions is a long-term investment backed by a robust strategy and political will.
change this status quo and take ownership of telling our own good news stories. I am encouraged that as GCIS we have already started sharing content with media houses on the continent
We are determined to continue coordinating more virtual meetings, and will work to further strengthen relationships with media houses on the continent as the African Union fast tracks the COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Communicating the work of the African Union, the APRM and other similar institutions who contribute to moving the continent forward is crucial. Sharing content with media houses across the continent is crucial to ensure that there is an increase on coverage of African stories.
As Nkrumah so aptly put it, “the “struggle against colonialism does not end with the attainment of national independence. Independence is only the prelude to a new and more involved struggle for the right to conduct our own economic and social affairs; to construct our society according to our aspirations, unhampered by crushing and humiliating neo-colonialist controls and interference”. Independence means owning our narrative and leading it. Therefore, we must work together and harness our collective creativity and ingenuity as communicators for the benefit of the continent.
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