By Fredrick P. W. Gaye, Johannesburg, South Africa
Making remarks on our (African journalists) behalf at the Third Annual China Africa Media Summit, July 2016 in Beijing, Ikenna Emewu of The Sun Newspaper in Nigeria had stressed the need for Africa to invite Chinese journalists to learn more about the continent.
The programme that hosts Chinese and African journalists and information ministers of the members states of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is one of the implementation monitoring processes of the FOCAC, especially its renewed vigour and objectives in Johannesburg, 2015.
Emewu said: “I don’t think Africa is so poor that our leaders can’t invite some Chinese journalists to learn more about our continent as China does to African journalists.”
Emewu’s statement was based on the win-win situation, which is the most-touted slogan of the FOCAC when China, through the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA), sponsors between 15 and 30 African journalists to the China-Africa Media Fellowship and Cultural Exchange Program, hosted by the China-Africa Press Center (CAPC) in Beijing.
Even though assistants are Chinese, this program features African journalists as the participants.
From the Africa’s side and to balance the Africa-China media “win-win” scale, as well even going deeper into FOCAC’s activities, the Wits Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) is leading the way. It’s hosted at the Journalism Department of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. The project invites African and Chinese journalists to Africa to investigate and report Africa-China issues.
This will end the notion that Africa is the weaker party in its engagement with China; something that is worth emulating by other institutions in Africa. It will further invigorate African countries and the African Union (AU) to start sponsoring Chinese officials and businesspeople as well as meetings in Africa.
The project is currently hosting five African and five Chinese journalists in Johannesburg for a two-week Africa-China reporting workshop and fieldwork.
Divided into five teams, based on their topic, the journalists are not only investigating, but also learning together for better results, with each team comprising an African and a Chinese.
The training is facilitated by mentors who are professional and experienced journalists, the training and skills development stage was held between November 7-9. During the training, the journalists also held seminars with Chinese businesspeople in South Africa via the SA-China Economy & Trade Association. They visited and held an interactive forum with officials of Chinese Association of Gauteng in New China Town, Johannesburg.
In a welcome remark at the opening ceremony, Barry van Wyk, Africa-China Reporting Project Coordinator, challenged the journalists to take advantage of the skills training opportunity to do their best. Barry reaffirmed the Project’s commitment to helping journalists to do on-the-ground investigation and reporting on Africa China issues.
The training stage was fascinating, giving participants new impetus in investigating and reporting on Africa-China issues, mainly on how to engage their selected topics. Facilitators drilled the African and Chinese journalists through tips of investigative journalism as well as how to be guided by ethics and in accordance with national laws, rules and regulations. They further inspired participants on how to engage in other issues.
Facilitators include: Bob Wekesa, a postdoctoral research fellow at Wits University; Huang Hongxiang, a freelance journalists who has written for the Mail & Guardian, among others; Phillip de Wet, an associate editor of the Mail & Guardian in Johannesburg; Carien du Plessis, a freelance journalist of African politics; Richard Poplak, a senior writer of the Daily Maverick; John Bailey, a senior journalist at eNCA; Eric Olander & Cobus van Staden of the China Africa Project; and Kevin Bloom, an award-winning author, editor and investigative journalist.
Also, the journalists held an informal but experience-sharing discussion with Anton Harber, an adjunct professor of Journalism at Wits University and a columnist at Business Day. He explained the social, political and economic terrain of journalism in South Africa. Anton is also a founding editor of the Mail & Guardian Newspaper.
On November 10, the participating journalists began the fieldwork stage of the project by investigating their selected topics of the workshop. They are expected to present their findings at the Africa-China Journalists Forum 2017 on November 20. The forum is organized by Wits Journalism Africa-China Reporting Project. It is the Project’s annual gathering of journalists and reporters discussing their Africa-China investigations.
The Project, in partnership with Oxfam International’s Africa-China Dialogue Platform held a workshop on Reporting Africa-China Engagements: Agriculture, Climate Change, Industrialization, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 for African and Chinese journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 5-7 September 2017, with over 20 African and Chinese journalists participating.
The Wits Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP), hosted at the Journalism Department of the University of Witwatersrand, aims to improve the quality of reporting on Africa-China issues. Despite the expanding links between the two regions, reporting has often been inadequate or polarized, either portraying China as an exploiting predator or a benign development partner. The Project aims to encourage balanced and considered reporting as Africa-China relations are further entrenched in the editorial narrative of both regions.
The Project offers reporting grants, workshops and other opportunities to African and Chinese journalists and encourages collaborations to investigate complex dynamics and uncover untold stories, with an emphasis on on-the-ground impact and perspectives to illustrate how the lives of the people of Africa are changing amid the comprehensive phenomenon of Africa-China interactions.
The Project’s activities, including some feature stories from past participating journalists, can be found on: http://africachinareporting.co.za
Fredrick P. W. Gaye is News Editor of IN PROFILE DAILY newspaper in Monrovia, Liberia, and currently a fellow of the Wits Journalism Africa-China Reporting Project in Johannesburg. Gaye is also a 2016 fellow of the China Public Diplomacy in Journalism at the China Africa Press Centre (CAPC) Bejing. He can be reached at: [email protected]