Cape Town - Africa needs news told by Africans for Africans.
This was the crux of the round table discussion hosted by African Editors' Forum chairman Jovial Rantao on day 2 of the BRICS Media Forum, being hosted in Cape Town.
The panel included Andrew Kagwa, from The Standard, in Kenya; Carol Annang, from New Times Media, in Ghana; Aly Ramji, from the Exchange, in Tanzania; and William Baloyi, Chief Director, Government Communications (GCIS).
Ramji said the narrative among media in Africa was not in the interest of Africans.
"We need news told by Africans, for Africa," he said. Panelists were asked how they would tell the African narrative within the BRICS framework.
Annang said there needed to be more collaboration, cooperation and innovation to make the BRICS narrative in Africa work.
“The effect of everything that happens within BRICS affects us; there’s a need for us to understand… we need to be able to communicate this to our people so they understand; there’s a need for Africans to tell African stories.”
She said it was problematic that African news stories were being reported by international, non-African news agencies.
“When you look across the continent, we are stronger in some countries and weaker in others. What we can do practically is to create a platform for African media to come together and through that create opportunities to share knowledge and bridge the knowledge gap. There needs to be standards; if we are growing together as one we need to help each other long.”
The discussion was opened for comments from the floor, with at least one commentator pulling no punches in his assessment of the state of the media on the continent.
“There is a shortcoming in African media – we are incompetent storytellers.
“It’s compounded by the problem that African people are telling their own stories to themselves; they don’t need the media anymore because technology makes it easy for them to do so. The question now is: ‘How do we as media owners insert ourselves into our audiences?’”
He added that there was no such thing as a homogenous African narrative, as each country had their own unique stories to tell.
In response, Kagwa agreed that the media needed to up its game and adapt to the challenges posed by new media.
"We need to use new media to tell better stories. Particularly about our successes."
Ramji agreed that the narrative about Africa was largely negative, and that there were success stories that could be told, within an African context.
Baloyi said conferences such as these should not only serve as talk shops, but should generate practical ideas of how to move forward to tell better stories.