MUNYAGA: Media needs partnership to change Africa

MUNYAGA: Media needs partnership to change Africa

Outgoing African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson, Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has challenged present day African journalists to popularise Agenda 2063 more or less in the same way their predecessors championed the liberation struggle for Africa.

She was addressing the African Editors’ Forum in Kigali, Rwanda on the sidelines of the AU’s 27th Ordinary Summit last month. She couldn’t have struck a more appropriate code only that there are huge differences between the African media of the 1970s and 80s and that of today both in terms of focus and ownership, the two aspects that tend to guide content.

The old media had a sense of mission while today’s media houses are guided more by the profit motive. And, the oldest conflict in journalism is profit versus news. In other words, the Pan African spirit could be burning in the heart of every individual journalist but “career correctness” could be a different matter altogether.

Let me offer my own experience. Certainly, I am not the best but at least I was there. I first joined the then Tanganyika Standard in Dar es Salaam in 1971, just a year before it was nationalized and turned into a state vehicle for the liberation struggle. The paper was at the time managed by Ms Frene Ginwalla from the African National Congress (ANC) Communist Wing who went on to become the first Speaker of Parliament when the gallant fighters of the burning spear finally crushed apartheid in South Africa. 

Regular writers included Gora Ibrahim and Karim Essack, all from South African liberation movements and David Martin, a Briton on the staff team who dedicated his life to the cause of Africa. I think Tomy Sithole, who later became Managing Editor of Zimbabwe’s state owned The Herald, joined later. Sithole also took pilot training while in Dar es Salaam and I’m told he went on to double as President Robert Mugabe’s leisure flights pilot.

For the part of Radio Tanzania Dar es Salaam, (RTD), which is now the Tanzania Broadcasting Corporation (TBC), there was an External Service Channel dedicated to the liberation struggle in southern Africa with programmers and announcers from nearly all the liberation movements who were also combatants. Tanzania had no television at the time and neither could it afford it.

One can rightly say therefore that in order to prosecute the liberation struggle in southern Africa, Tanzania dedicated more than proportional share of its resources and wealth to the cause. The result was that the whole of Africa was liberated within a generation, shaming critics and naysayers who believed that apartheid could never be dismantled or that the Portuguese would never leave both Angola and Mozambique, which they had disrespectfully labelled as Portugal’s so called overseas provinces.

I don’t want to mention here the several military bases and training camps that Tanzania also gave to southern African liberation movements as that would be outside the scope of my argument. But what I want to say is that what Ms Dlamini-Zuma alluded to in her address to African editors is not something that was without structural basis and framework. History and geography bequeathed southern Africa’s liberation struggle to Tanzania’s stewardship. What happened, remains the collective pride of all Africa and Africans.

I stand to be corrected but Agenda 2063 is Africa’s equivalent of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGS). We all know where we stand with respect to the MDGs. Agenda 2063 is a bold dream, and it is good to live by dreams, divided into seven major aspirations latched on a vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

The Agenda was adopted in 2013 as a review of where Africa stood after nearly 50 years of independence and where it wanted to be in the next 50 years of freedom and joining the global comity of nations. Paragraph 9 of Aspiration Number One of the Agenda states boldly:

We (African Leaders) are determined to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent. Paragraph 10 states: We aspire that by 2063 Africa shall be a prosperous continent, with the means and resources to drive its own development.

Now, these are bold statements and, “Yes We Can” but for the media to be a meaningful vehicle of that social and economic transformation, it will need equally dedicated partners if not sponsors. Africa was liberated within a generation because there were men and women who dedicated their lives to that cause. My question is: Are there today men and women who feel Africa’s poverty needs the kind of military campaign, albeit through the soldiers of the pen, to make it history? I think before we get there, xenophobia shall remain the jinx we all failed to kill.

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