29 November 2019
Acting Director-General of the Government Communication and Information System, Ms Phumla Williams
Editors and Journalists;
Ladies and gentlemen;
I consider it a very special honour to be invited to address this august gathering of Southern Africa’s media professionals.
This assembly of media practitioners and journalists from the SADC region constitutes a vital intellectual and practical contribution to our collective continental effort to create a better Africa and a better world.
This platform has, over the years, provided space for critical reflection on the media environment in SADC and the continent at large.
Today we are here to honour the best amongst us. Those who have gone the extra mile in profiling the SADC journey of hope.
I am pleased to say that the SADC Media Awards are a firm pointer to the fact that Africa is on the rise. Africa is changing and so too are outdated and myopic views of our continent.
The emergence of the “Africa rising” narrative is long overdue and is a validation that Africa is changing economically, politically and socially.
The SADC Media Awards are much more than an annual prize. They are a powerful tool to drive the narrative of a new Africa; one of unlimited potential and a renewed hope for a better future.
Africa is home to us all and its future success and growth lies in our collective hands. We dare not allow others to drive the agenda and steer our future.
These awards are an integral part of Africa reclaiming our own story and driving the narrative. The stories we tell are uniquely ours; and within them are tales of hope, change and renewal.
The African Union’s Agenda 2063 vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa is very much alive in these awards. Agenda 2063 calls for an Africa driven and managed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the international arena.
Out of the many common traits we have as Southern African countries, is our history of colonialism and oppression.
As a region, we have since independence and democratisation continued to nurture the growth and development of our people. The success of South Africa is very much dependent on the success of her neighbours, the region and the continent as a whole.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, Africa has the youngest population in the world. By 2055, the continent’s youth population (aged 15-24), is expected to be more than double the 2015 total of 226 million. However, our youth which constitutes the majority of the continent’s population still remain unemployed.
Therefore, the success of African governments’ efforts to address this will be the single most important factor determining whether the continent prospers or suffers in the coming decades.
The African Continental Free Trade Area, which most SADC countries have ratified, will fundamentally reshape the economies of our continent, and we need to be prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that will be created.
As we may know, South Africa will be taking over the Chair of the African Union in February 2020 which provides us with another opportunity to positively influence relations on the continent.
The SADC vision is one of a common future, within a regional community that will ensure economic well-being, improvement of the standard of living and quality of life, freedom and social justice, peace and security for the peoples of Southern Africa.
This shared vision is anchored on common values and principles and historical and cultural affinities that exist amongst the people of Southern Africa.
We are stronger together when we work collectively as government, civil society, business and the media to ensure the prosperity of Southern Africa and Africa as a whole.
Much has changed in the region and the continent since the awards were first introduced 23 years ago. Back in 1996 our media landscape was dominated by large foreign media. They were telling our stories but through their own prism, and their built in assumptions of Africa.
In South Africa, the media landscape was even more skewed as the media was still by and large owned by the previous regime.
The South African media was either controlled directly by the state (with the SABC having a monopoly on free-to-air radio and television stations), by the Broederbond-linked Nasionale Pers (now transformed to Naspers), or by the three major white owned newspaper groups (of which Nasionale Pers was one), either supporting the apartheid rule, antagonistic to the democratic forces or unable to be a mirror and reflect our society.
This is why post democratisation in 1994, we had to focus on transforming South African media across the value chain (including policies and regulation, ownership and control, content, language, advertising and marketing, gender, class and demographic representativity, etc.) into a sector able to adequately serve a democratic South Africa.
The South African Constitution provides for the establishment of constitutional bodies supporting our democracy and, protects media freedom and freedom of expression. This has enabled our country to strive to have a diverse media with plurality of voices, reflecting and representing the diversity of our society.
It is in terms of this, that the media has an enabling environment to report freely, including reporting wrong doing, crime, corruption, etc.
When thinking back at how much has changed I can’t help but marvel at the visionary approach of the then SADC leaders.
The seemingly simple act of creating awards to recognise excellence in journalism in print, photography, radio and television, was actually a pretence for something much bigger. Our leaders were challenging us, the region and the continent to think bigger and set the agenda for an Africa we want.
As journalists and media practitioners, you are responsible for a powerful institution which provides for important platforms of communication. The institution you are responsible for has tremendous power to influence our thinking, attitude and behaviour.
Therefore, the media must and should, also welcome investigative journalism, courage and commitment to expose corruption, wrongs, bad, rights, good, the truth, etc. through accurate, factual and fair reporting. It is only through staying true to the values which underpin your profession, what we will collectively realise the vision of a prosperous Africa.
Africa is truly on the rise and I am pleased to say that our rise is being reported by our own media. Our future and our prospects as a region as ever remained intertwined.
Those we recognise today have showed conclusively that we can tell our own stories in a compelling and transformative manner.
Before closing, it would be remiss of me not to announce that entries for the 2020 SADC Media Awards are now open.
The 2020 SADC Media Awards competition will be judged in the four categories namely; Photo, Print, Television and Radio Journalism.
These awards as always are open to journalists from the SADC Member States and entries close on 28 February 2020.
I invite you to share news of these awards far and wide. I am convinced that the 2020 awards can see us rise to even greater heights. Africa is rising; let us share our stories of hope and change with the world.
I thank you.