Pretoria: With the growing need for fresh news from the continent, African press officers of the diplomatic community have agreed that more avenues should be explored to disseminate developmental news stories to the world, while allowing dialogue and engagement to take place.
These new platforms must, at the same time, tell African stories beyond the doom and gloom often portrayed by the international media, and must also open a window for the world to see what the continent has achieved in the past 50 years.
The press attaches, who met for a sharing session in Pretoria — hosted by the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) on Tuesday — believed that as things stand, most stories highlighting African progress do not get the prominence they deserve in the media.
This has been evident as a growing number of leaders from Africa use global platforms to reiterate that the continent is evolving from the conflict-ridden and helpless place it was 50 years ago, to a continent that is now on the rise socially, economically and politically.
“No one disputes that Africa still faces many challenges related to poverty, civil unrest, corruption and other developmental challenges… However, these challenges are not unique to Africa,” Acting GCIS CEO Phumla Williams told the opening of the meeting.
However, what should differentiate coverage of the continent from other developing countries should be the ability to contextualise these challenges and be part of the solution.
“The road ahead to attain peace, stability and prosperity on the African Continent for all her peoples is not an easy one. This calls on Africans themselves to take the lead in telling their own stories. We are today in a better space than we were 50 years ago…there is no reason we are not seeing more collaboration in sharing our stories with our respective communities,” said Williams.
As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the forebear of the African Union, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), Williams said African government communicators needed to take the cue from the founding members of the union — who sought to restore freedom and dignity, and to create a better life for all Africans — and highlight the progressed the continent has achieved.
“No one is going to project this story for us. We have a mandate to inform, educate and engage the communities both in South Africa and in Africa,” said Williams.
This was echoed by Paul Nana, from the Ghanaian Embassy’s Chancery.
“It is time to take our destiny into our own hands. We can’t wait for others to affirm what we conceive as true as Africans. We need to unite and map our own future as the continent,” said Nana.
Williams invited the African press officers to utilise the GCIS communication tools to tell the stories of their respective countries to vast audiences.
Acknowledging that the media landscape was changing, with the introduction of new media, Williams highlighted the importance of social media.
“We must find creative ways to ensure that our messages reach our citizen. Social media has proven to be the current flavour for most young people. This platform is useful both for putting information through, but it also allow dialogue and engagement.”
Representing the head of the Diplomatic Corp, Nicole Mbuyamba of Congo, said they will further “strengthen and help raise Africa’s voice in translating the mandate of the African Union to the world”.
Mbuyamba said the next step should be identifying the tools of communication these development stories need in order to be told.
“We do have the mandate of the AU, we do have the people, and we have the stories but the questions remains: how do we translate and communicate it with the world? That is where the challenge is at the moment.”
This was the first meeting of press officers of the diplomatic communities based in South Africa, which was held under the theme ‘Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance’. It contributes towards the extended recognition and celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU.