Thats a key message of this weeks New Partnerships for Africas Development (NEPAD) Colloquium and Congress held at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa. Past and current African leaders, including NEPAD founders and past Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, led a day-long exploration of NEPADs impact on African development.
NEPAD@10 - Leaders Call for Media Participation in Analyzing and Disseminating the True Picture of Africas Progress
Historically, African development issues largely have been interpreted by western media, which focus on poverty, conflict and health crises. During this weeks summit, 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.
Zenawi, who also chairs NEPADs 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. And while issues like climate change and the global financial crisis disrupted European currency markets, Africas GDP growth rates reached a peak of 6 percent in 2007.
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.
The NEPAD event was preceded by several related meetings of African Finance Ministers and policy makers, who explored their role in fueling the past decades development progress. NEPAD CEO, Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, said Africas historic image of donor dependency is also eroding, thanks to a potent mix of demographic factors.
Given the density of our natural resources, the youth of our population and the extraordinary growth in business and IT sectors, African leaders are being guided towards a leadership agenda, Mayaki said.
Less than 60 million Africans now live in countries where donor aid is more important than national investment policy, Mayaki said. Increasingly, accountability mechanisms are improving the ability of leaders to make credible efforts to improve the quality of life for their citizens.
However, despite this significant shift towards socio-economic transformation, NEPAD officials acknowledged that many of Africas 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 Africas development prospects.
They urged African journalists to not only take responsibility for analyzing the continents 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.
For example, few would dispute the pivotal role of agriculture in Africas development progress. Agriculture contributes 35 to 40 percent of GDP and employs 65 percent of (Africas) labor force. African agriculture is already suffering from extreme climate variability such as more frequent droughts. Crop losses of 10-20 percent are projected due to climate change. Agriculture also contributes to climate change through emission of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane as well as being a major driver of deforestation in many regions. But without access to information and support, many journalists on the continent are either uninformed or cannot accurately convey the urgency of these issues to policy makers and the public.
Prior to the NEPADs 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.
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.
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.
NEPAD, CTA and their partners believe the time is ripe for fueling African-based analysis of development, at a uniquely critical moment in history.
With the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) fast approaching, African media must be equipped to analyze whether governments are developing the necessary policies and ordering their fiscal priorities to reach targeted MDGs. They must be prepared to either applaud those countries that have made authentic progress, or carefully explain the failure to reach those goals by other countries.
Editors Note: To access video, press materials, images and other background information, please visit the online pressroom at http://www.nepad.org/press-room.