Fellow government communicators;
Ladies and gentlemen; and especially our dear “Fellows”
It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the GCIS and I trust you will enjoy your time with us. Your presence here today is an affirmation of the importance of us jointly growing African voices so that we can do the important work of keeping the public informed of developments on the Continent.
I would like to offer a warm welcome to my colleagues Wynne Musabayana and Carine Maro who have been instrumental in making today happen… and in absentia may I pass my very best wishes to my dear sister, Leslie Richer, who heads the African Union (AU) Information and Communication Directorate and with whom over the years, we have enjoyed a very positive and enthusiastic partnership. Today marks yet another chapter in that journey as we keep our eye firmly set on Vision 2063.
Firstly, allow me to extend to you all an apology on behalf of our Acting Director-General, Ms Nomonde Mnukwa. She would have loved to join us here today but has other commitments this afternoon.
I am pleased to see that our colleagues from the GCIS Media Engagement team have prepared a full programme for today that will give you greater insights into the work of the GCIS, some of our fellow government departments, as well as GCIS entities.
What has emerged most tellingly in the media space is the need for Africans to tell our own stories. The continent is crying out for African media professionals, journalists and content creators to take the lead in sharing with the world the story of our continent and our many remarkable successes, both current and ancient.
I am truly thrilled to see before us today a beautiful example of such very professionals – across ages, regions, backgrounds, cultures, languages and interestingly, from many of the genres of media and content development… both traditional ones some of us are more familiar with… and those new, emerging ones. Reading your profiles filled me with great pride and excitement that our Continent is in such remarkable hands in as far as the future of media is concerned.
I firmly believe that it is our responsibility to ensure that we use media to inform, educate and empower citizens. Our work is vital in bridging knowledge gaps and in driving Africa’s development narrative.
But telling our own story will not become a reality unless we institutionalise and plan for this – we all know the old adage? If we fail to plan we are planning to fail… something along those lines. And it is for this reason that I would like to offer our deep and sincere compliments to the AU Information and Communications Directorate for setting up this prestigious institution – the AU Media Fellowship Programme. Without such building blocks, we will never reach the goal of setting the narrative about ourselves, by all of us together in shared networks driven by a common vision and goal. Having also worked with the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) for so many years, I think it would also be appropriate to express to yourselves GIZ team a deep thanks for your commitment to assist in setting up this programme and it is clear – your investment in our future will bear fruit if you see the group in front of us today!
I share this notion of structuring our plans for success with you, with the experience we have in our prestige project, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Media Awards, which over nearly three decades, has been instrumental in building the notion of the contributions and capabilities, the skills, the life stories and the development of this region to ourselves, the Continent and the world. The SADC Media Awards were set up in 1996 to recognise best media practice in information on SADC to support the process of regional integration and cooperation.
I think we can all agree that since 2020 technology has played an ever-greater part in how we communicate and interact. Technology is drawing us ever closer and through Zoom, Skype or Teams meetings, we now have the ability to communicate, share knowledge and grow our collective abilities.
However, technology also poses many challenges, which we must navigate as communication professionals. Social media, websites and other alternative sources of news have emerged as the primary source of news and information for many people. Yet as we well know many of these sources do not have the rigorous checks and balances that are in place for traditional media.
As communicators, we all know that information is the lifeblood of any democracy, but when information is no longer credible nor trusted, it erodes trust in government and public institutions. Factual information is necessary to drive informed public discourse and citizens are deprived of making objective decisions when facts or information is falsified. As arbiters of communication it goes without saying that, we have a duty to protect citizens from deliberate falsehoods, which are a danger to democracy.
But for me, and just in closing, some of the rich information, that lifeblood I referred to, which can drive us and which continues to prickle my interest includes amongst the following areas:
- Our rich culture and history – our contributions to living heritage and the planet – the planet we need to save;
- The huge potential in our African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the mind boggles at what this can mean;
- Given much of our history, our serious stand against violence, crime and other acts which defy efforts to silence guns forever on our Continent, and which make us aptly placed to offer support in bringing peace to other conflict-torn areas of the world;
- Empowering women and fighting gender inequality and above all, gender-based violence and femicide;
- Our huge agricultural and agro-processing and renewable energy opportunities, not to mention our magnificent natural heritage.
These are but a few areas that any passionate communicator or content developer can find golden communication opportunities in.
I am certain that these and other fascinating and indeed thought-provoking discussions will take place today. I have no doubt that through our collective energies we will ensure that we are at the forefront of defining and telling the narrative of our continent to African and global audiences, also by using emerging digital technologies.
I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to our team of organisers for their hard work and for ensuring that we have a successful event. Above all, I would like to thank you, our AU friends and the Fellows from across the Continent, humbly and most deeply, for considering us as GCIS worthy of this, your first study tour as the second cohort of the AU Media Fellowship Programme.
I thank you