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Africa-China reporting fellowship in South Africa balances FOCAC media objective

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 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.

 Background

 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: fgaye.inprofile@gmail.com

Needless headache over Nigeria’s NDDC Board tenure

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By Achilleus-Chud Uchegbu

Senator Emmanuel Paulker may have played the devil’s advocate when he raised a motion for an abridgment of the tenure of the incumbent board of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC).

In raising argument seeking to put an end to the tenure of the board led by Sen. Victor Ndoma-Egba, Paulker, one of the senators representing Bayelsa State, argued that the board’s tenure ought to have ended on the grounds that it was a continuation of the Sen. Bassey Henshaw-led board. In his argument, leadership of the board ought to now revert to Bayelsa State given that the Act establishing the NDDC did provide for a rotation of its leadership among the nine NDDC states.

Paulker may have intended to make a case for his home state of Bayelsa, but in doing so, he stirred a nest and needlessly troubled some water. He would have been saved the hassle if he had been made aware of a legal opinion by the Attorney-General of the Federation which interpreted the actual meaning of cessation of membership of the board of NDDC, and vacancy, as intended by Section 3(1) of the NDDC Establishment Act.

In the mind of Paulker, the NDDC board ceases to exist on grounds that it was a continuation of the previous board which was sacked by the incumbent government in 2015. Upon that argument, Paulker argued that vacancy now exists in the leadership of NDDC

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But in the legal opinion of the AGF, titled Re: Clarification on the Tenure of the Governing Board of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), signed by Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, and dated October 11, it was stated that no vacancy exists in the leadership of the NDDC, as yet, as the incumbent tenure had a fresh mandate upon inauguration and ought to serve for four years. Paragraph 2(h) of the letter conveying the opinion marked LE.104/S.1/NDDC.01/25 stated specifically that “…the inauguration of the present NDDC board is a fresh tenure as contemplated by section 3(1), that is, a term of four years which is subject to renewal”.

In interpreting the NDDC Act, the AGF argued that “the proper interpretation of vacancy under Section 5(2) of the NDDC Act going by the ejus dem generis rule is to consider the instances where a board member can be said to have ceased to hold office as provided for under Section 5(1) (a-f) of the NDDC Act. Vacancy as used under Section 5(2) is a general term whose meaning can only come from the specific items listed under Section 5(1). Therefore, a vacancy that requires the appointment of a successor to complete an unexpired term can only occur if the six instances provided for under the Act occur”.

For emphasis, the six instances referred to, as conditions for cessation of membership of the NDDC board include bankruptcy, suspension, conviction, unsound mind, misconduct and resignation. None of these applied to members of the erstwhile NDDC board. What applied to the previous board was dissolution by the federal government. In the mind of the law, dissolution means termination and this indicates an end to the life; in this case, the life of the board. An end to the life of a board also interprets to end of tenure thus empowering any new appointments as having a life of its own, and, on a fresh mandate.

To this end, the AGF specifically argued that “dissolution of the Board cannot be categorized as a vacancy under the Act. Dissolution signifies total extinguishment of the Board, it simply ceases to exist, and therefore there cannot be any remainder of any term which as successor is expected to complete. There has to be fresh composition of the board for a fresh term of four years”.

This was the crux of the argument in the legal interpretation of Section 5(3), signed by Apata, Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, which was procedurally upheld by then Acting Secretary to the Government of the Federation, to whom it was addressed. Perhaps, the Senate would not have been led into taking up that motion had Sen. Paulker taken cognizance of the details of the AGF’s interpretation which was premised on Section 5(3), the same section of the NDDC Act upon which Sen. Paulker based his contest.

Sen. Paulker presented his case before the senate in a manner suggesting that the Ndoma-Egba board is a usurping board. That information, as misleading as it was, was capable of rendering the work of the Commission, and also scare off international development partners, whose renewed interest in the NDDC is spurred by the openness and transparent conduct of business of the commission in the pursuit of its core mandate.

It is interesting that the Dr. Bukola Saraki-led senate has realized that there may have been wrongful information passed on to it leading to its entertainment of the Paulker motion and has moved to remedy the situation. Senate’s new move re-assures international development partners of the NDDC of the commitment of the upper legislative chamber to uphold the provisions of the NDDC Act, which itself is an act of parliament. This, the Senate has done by referring the matter to its committee on Niger Delta for review. In doing so, the Senate President said the matter will be resolved in a “gentlemen discussion”.

Commenting on Senate’s action, Senator Ahmed Lawan, who is Senate Majority Leader said “I want to appeal to all of us here that since we have a new SGF (Secretary to the Government of the Federation) who wants to work with us, in the spirit of this season and interest showed by the SGF, that he wants to deal with the issue, I will advise and move that we ask our Committee on NDDC to liaise with the Office of the SGF to look into the real issues so that we can deal with them”. This senatorial position comes in light of the understanding that the AGF interpretation of Section 5(3) of the NDDC Act is appropriate and renders Sen. Paulker’s motion a nullity. That also may be an added fillip to enable the board make a difference.

*Uchegbu, a journalist contributed this from Lagos

APEC kick-off: Asia-Pacific is engine of global development, says Vietnam

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As the 2017 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting is to kick off this weekend in Da Nang, Vietnam, international observers have highlighted that the region is the locomotive driving global growth and sustainable development.

 

“Asia is the central element of the world economy and a big focus of the attention from the industrial world,” said Peter Drysdale, emeritus professor of economics and head of the East Asian Bureau of Economic Research and East Asia Forum at the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University.As the West leans toward protectionism and anti-globalization, how the Asia-Pacific region deals with the new circumstances is key to the future of globalization, the researcher noted.

The Asia-Pacific region is, undoubtedly, the world’s busiest area in terms of trade and economy. According to the Asian Economic Integration Report 2017 released by the Asian Development Bank in October, the region’s trade growth rose to 1.7 percent in 2016 from 1.4 percent in 2015 against a deceleration on the world level.

 

However, an unstable global economic and trade policy environment poses risks to free trade and economic integration. The report said that growing economic linkages in the region help improve its resilience against these uncertainties.Alan Bollard, executive director of the APEC Secretariat based in Singapore, pointed out the APEC summit is a chance for world leaders to gather and discuss economic agendas.In less than three decades, APEC that consists of 21 Pacific Rim economies has played an important role in advancing trade liberalization and facilitation, promoting economic integration and boosting connectivity.By bringing together the world’s top two economies, the United States and China, and some other much smaller ones, APEC can take advantage of what different economies can do best, Bollard said.

 

Drysdale stressed that the economies in the region should underpin trade liberalization in the context of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).Launched in 2012, the RCEP talks involve 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and their six trading partners — Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.Drysdale said he hoped that world leaders at the ASEAN summit in the Philippines would declare core elements of substantial agreement on the RCEP.”It’s important to press ahead with the progress in RCEP, because it’s so important to buttress support for the global system as well as deliver on the potential liberalization and reform has for the Asian economies,” said Drysdale.

For his part, Bollard said he expected progress on the potential realization of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) during the APEC meetings.

 

The FTAAP, spearheaded by China at the 2014 APEC Summit in Beijing, has been gaining steam especially after a collective study was approved two years later in Lima, Peru.By encompassing all the APEC economies, the FTAAP will become the world’s largest free trade zone, covering 57 percent of the global economy and nearly half of global trade.Drysdale noted that against the backdrop of global uncertainties, China’s stance on promoting open trade is “incredibly important.”As the second largest economy contributing roughly 30 percent of global growth, China has sailed in the uncharted waters to address tough reform tasks, shifting into a consumption-driven economy and implementing a supply-side reform to achieve green and sustainable development.

 

Bollard said APEC “watched China’s Belt and Road Initiative with interest,” describing it as “about investment, projects and development of infrastructures.””So far as it involves infrastructure projects and connectivity, we are very interested in that,” said Bollard.The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, comprises an overland Silk Road Economic Belt and a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and aims to revive and expand cooperation and exchanges along and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes, which nurtured trade between Asia and the outside world in the past.Drysdale noted “at the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May, President Xi (Jinping) and others have made clear that China was opening an invitation for others to find a pathway forward for the agenda for investing in connectivity. The infrastructure agenda, and the BRI (the Belt and Road Initiative), the AIIB (the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) are all a part of it.”Countries involved should press ahead with the agendas which are “a mutually beneficial game,” he said.

 

source: Xinhua

AU to withdraw 1,000 troops from Somalia by end of December

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The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) announced on Tuesday that some 1,000 soldiers will be withdrawn from Somalia by December 31 in line with African Union and UN Security Council resolutions.

 

The Special Representative of the African Union Chairperson for Somalia, Francisco Madeira, stressed that the withdrawal of AMISOM troops from Somalia will be “gradual” and “conditions-based.”  “AMISOM has begun its drawdown from Somalia and will have its troop numbers reduced by 1,000 by Dec. 31.

Our drawdown and transition must be gradual, conditions-based, responsible and done in a manner that does not compromise the safety and security of the Somali people,” Madeira told journalists in Mogadishu.  As result of this, he said, troop movements have started in different parts of the Horn of Africa nation and will continue for the coming as security responsibilities start to shift to the local military.  “This is a process of re-alignment to effect the reduction in numbers and begin the handover of security responsibilities to Somali forces. I want to assure all that this exercise’s being conducted with caution to ensure the security of the Somali people is not compromised,” he said.

 

Madeira said as part of the military drawdown, the pan African body will deploy an extra 500 police officers who will strengthen training and mentoring for Somali Police “The deployment of additional police officers will help extend law and order in Somalia hence further securing the country,” the AU envoy said.  AMISOM will reduce its troops by 1,000 by December, followed by further cuts next year, an exercise expected to end by 2020 as part of its exit strategy.  However, AMISOM’s exit is also pegged on the ability of the Somali National Security Forces, particularly the SNA to ably take over the security of the country.  The AU envoy’s remarks came a day after AMISOM launched a massive security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle region in southern region.

 

The major offensive comes barely a month after the country’s Oct. 14 deadly attack killed 358 people and left several others injured.  Madeira said the ongoing troop movements should not cause alarm, but the withdrawal has begun earlier than expected.     “The re-alignment of AMISOM troops is a process that must be implemented as part African Union and UN Security Council resolutions. We are proud and envisioned a time when we could hand over responsibility to the Somali National Security Forces,” Madeira said.  He said the Somali forces urgently need to be equipped with necessary weapons and key logistical support including timely payment of stipend to enable them to flush out the militants out of the country.  “Other urgent support includes provision of quality medical care and establishment of key infrastructure – barracks and training centers,” he said. Some Western countries including the United States have expressed concern that Somalia’s security forces will not be ready by then.     AMISOM is comprised of troops drawn from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Burundi who are deployed in six sectors covering south and central Somalia. Ugandan troops are deployed in Sector 1 which comprises the regions of Banadir and Lower Shabelle.   

 Source: Xinhua

First drunkards church debuts in South Africa, baptizes 2000 members in 3 months

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 A special church established especially for alcoholics is warmly welcomed in a small town in northeastern South Africa, according to local media.

 “This is where those labeled ‘drunkards’ by other churches are welcome,” said Tsietsi Makiti, the bishop of Gabola Church. ‘Gabola’ is the Sotho-Tswana word for ‘drinking.’

The church services would be held at a different tavern every Sunday in Evaton Township in Gauteng Province of South Africa.

Congregants could directly buy drinks from the tavern or bring some themselves. Alcoholic liquids are shared by all attending the church services.

As mainstream churches usually condemn drunkenness, the “floating” church aims to provide a homelike environment for alcohol consumers, as one can get drunk anytime in the proceedings, Makiti told News24, a local news outlet.

 Although the church has been set up for only three months, it won the heart of local congregants. According to Makiti, the church has 500 members and more than 2,000 people have been baptized.”I grew up in a yard where a church service is held to this day. At a later stage, I was barred because I drink. I am happy today to have found a home in Gabola Church,” a patron was quoted by News24.

Currently the church services are not open to women and children, considering possible misbehavior caused by muzziness. Local residents hope such a special church can help accommodate the rejects of communities and reduce the level of crime.

Source: Xinhua

CAVEAT: PHOTO ILLUSTRATION IS NOT FROM CHURCH, BUT FROM A BAR CELEBRATING SOUTH AFRICAN BREW (google.com)