Earlier this week, experienced media practitioners, scholars and government representatives from a number of African countries and China gathered in Nairobi for the China-Africa Media Cooperation Forum 2020. To partially fulfill the theme of the event, even more participants and speakers attended the proceedings. virtually followed. – expose the opportunities to promote Sino-African ties in the digital age.
The event was a milestone in efforts to forge better relations between China and mainland Africa. The media occupies a uniquely important space as a platform for education, dissemination of information and consensus building. Second, by bringing together practitioners, regulators and consumers, the Forum has further narrowed the media divide between China and Africa. The resulting networks and impetus are likely to generate traction for a more constructive and mutually beneficial engagement.
China and Africa both suffered from the discourse of hegemony in which their social, cultural, and political organizing narratives were largely shaped by external actors. Misinformation and misrepresentation of facts defined the definition of African affairs in the eyes of the dominant international media. China has not been spared the same, as evidenced by recent reporting on Beijing’s Covid-19 response.
The media has played a key role in China’s socio-economic transformation and social stability through constructive journalism. By focusing on development stories and other aspects of society, including history, culture and values, the Chinese media significantly shaped the aptitude of the citizens away from the spectacle.
To a large extent, the local media in China has grown to tell its story inside and outside the country. Afrikaans media is still struggling in this endeavor. It is common to find wire stories that are put on the front page by local Afrikaans press, even if the story is about home affairs.
As many speakers on the forum have judged, politics remains the dominant framework for media messages in Africa. In Kenya, with the most vibrant and professional media footprints on the continent, even the deadly global health crisis is largely reported using political lenses. This is one area where African press can learn from their Chinese counterpart.
African press has a very short time in the processing and distribution of news compared to China. African journalists are struggling to get feedback and comments from Chinese government officials and other news sources. In the process, nuances are lost; facts are blurred and impartiality is affected.
In addition to these apparent differences, China and African countries have similar development aspirations. In the true spirit of Chinese traditional philosophical thinking, Yin-Yang is an excellent opportunity for synergy and progress from the seemingly irregular positions of the Afrikaans and Chinese media.
It’s time for both parties to realize strategic partnerships that can facilitate the exchange of information and technical expertise. China is an extensive civilization state of 1.4 billion people and a global economic growth engine.
On the other hand, Africa is the next frontier of development with some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Both China and Africa have found practical and pragmatic business opportunities for shared development and prosperity.
Although China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for the past decade, the partnership is now moving towards industrial cooperation. The new arrangement will contribute to the unlocking of the continent’s economic potential through expanded industrial base, job creation, technology transfer and global competitiveness. This conversation needs to be driven a lot by the media.
The media is also an important pillar to promote cultural interactions outside the news media with other creatives, such as films and documentaries. The digital space provides additional opportunities for content creation, intercultural exchanges and a real reflection of existing economic opportunities within the China-Africa space.
In the coming year, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will be held in Senegal. It provides a good opportunity to color in strategic media cooperative arrangements. The China-Africa story unfolds every day. It is necessary for the media agencies to run in the right direction with the narrative, carry relevant messages and positively influence the lives of consumers.