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Africa Urged on Media Participation

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 29 March 2012-After a decade of transformative economic, research and development efforts, Africa is poised to achieve its vision for progress – if policymakers, researchers, civil society and the media are able to properly analyze and communicate the continent’s ongoing development challenges and successes.

That’s a key message of this week’s New Partnerships for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Colloquium and Congress held at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, which was attended by past and current African leaders, including NEPAD founders and past Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi,
The leader held a day-long exploration of NEPAD’s impact on African development, under the theme Empowered Media Critical to Achievement of Africa’s Development Goals.

Despite the challenges faced by African media, and misguided reporting on poverty, conflict and health crises by the western media, the NEPAD leaders lauded impressive development milestones in areas such as agriculture, technology, health and policy. Many were the result of pioneering initiatives launched by NEPAD.

However, despite this significant shift towards socio-economic transformation, NEPAD officials acknowledged that many of Africa’s major successes and ongoing development challenges remain unreported by media. And while issues such as HIV/AIDs, malnutrition, poor infrastructure cannot be ignored, summit leaders believe that better reporting can fuel a new consciousness about Africa’s development prospects.

They (NEPAD) urged African journalists to not only take responsibility for analyzing the continent’s development issues, but also embrace ownership of the development story, which could guide international media towards a more authentic portrayal of the complexity of African development challenges.

Michael Hailu, Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), explained the importance of supporting media and providing journalists with the research and information they need to allow Africa to tell its own story.

“The media is an important channel for information that can educate people and empower them to effect positive change. It can help in sharing success stories from one country to other countries; inform vulnerable communities of impacts of a changing climate and how they can adapt to them, and can promote new approaches that improve yields, inspire action, or even bring about policy change where needed.”

Ethiopia premier, Meles Zenawi, who also chairs NEPAD’s Head of State and Government Orientation Committee (HSGOC), highlighted what he called a “new era of renewed momentum.” Zenawi noted that key partnerships established with the G8, G20 and South-South cooperation platforms have already strengthened African development efforts.

“Growth in Africa is projected at 5 percent in the next decade, but only a double digit growth can make Africa a globally integrated economy,” Zenawi said. “In doing this, we need to move beyond managing poverty. I believe very strongly that NEPAD can act as the stimuli for prosperity on our continent.”

Prior to the NEPAD’s Congress and Colloquium, CTA partnered with NEPAD to host a one-day sensitization workshop for journalists and communications specialists from 14 countries. The workshop was aimed at discussing ways on how best media can play its role in accelerating the AU/NEPAD agenda.

Both organizers and participants agreed there is a dire need for the creation of a formal journalists’ support network, to capitalize on increasing momentum about the role of insightful development coverage in fueling transformative policies.

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