Africa News must be country specific — Panellists in Spain

Panelists at the just ended second African and Spanish journalists meeting held in Madrid, Spain have stressed the need for news presented on Africa to be country specific.

They observed that often, news on Africa was presented as though Africa was a country and said Africa was a continent with 54 states and it was important that news presented made that clear.

The panellists stressed that as a continent, even though there were some similarities as far as certain issues were concerned, there were different cultures, customs and traditions and development was also at varying stages.

They said it was, therefore, important that issues were tackled independently, as programmes that a country would consider a priority, may not be seen as such in another country, just as issues that may constitute a problem for some might not be considered a challenge for others.

The panellists were made up of about 40 African and Spanish journalists who were in Madrid to discuss the other ways of communicating Africa.

The meeting, which was organised by CASA Africa, took the form of roundtables, with specific topics for the panellists, including “What are we not telling about Africa?

which had Ms Kate Baaba Hudson of the Daily Graphic, Mrs Zenaida Machado from the Human Rights Watch, Ms Caroline Southey of The Conversation and Ms Amy Sarr Fall of the Intelligences Magazine, with Ms Lola Huete of the Planeta Futuro moderating.

Go behind releases

In her presentation, Ms Hudson said the country and issue specific approach was very important and that the time had come for journalists to go out of the newsrooms and source stories.

She said journalists should not rely only on press releases or statements, but go behind such releases and come out with deeper insights into issues.

This way, she said “we will not be telling the story the way those who release them want us to present them, but we will be able to double-check facts and figures and have authority over what we write.”

She said when that was done, we would be coming out with quality and accurate stories that were not being told and would not present stories which described Ghana, for instance, as that small town somewhere in North Africa or say that Nigeria is in East Africa.

Ms Hudson, who is the Foreign Editor of the Daily Graphic, said specialisation was also very important, as journalists for specific areas could ask relevant questions and present stories from a point of authority.

On the issue of gender, she said the Daily Graphic had women as heads of departments and units, adding that, they occupied these positions not because they were women but because they were qualified and had the capacity for those positions.

In an answer to a question, she said Ghanaian journalists informed the society on government policies and programmes and mentioned the Ghana Beyond Aid and the free Senior High School (SHS) policies as examples.

She also touched on efforts being made to fight girl child marriage and ensure that the girl-child went to school and was not discriminated against.


Ms Southey said The Conversation was a channel where issues were explained to the public through write-ups by academics.

For her part, Ms Machado observed that a lot was not being told about Africa because those who had to tell the stories didn’t know.

Ms Fall emphasised the need for journalists to pick issues and digest them for the understanding of the public.

The media and its impact on tourism was discussed by Mr Kojo Bentum-Williams, Chief Executive Officer of Voyages Afriq, Jaime Mayaki, Spokesperson of the Regional Bureau of OMT for Africa; Eric Chinje of Africa Media Initiative — Brand Africa Report, while Frank Oliver Kra of Ebiz Africa Review facilitated.

The narrative

Mr Bentum-Williams said for a sustainable growth of the continent’s tourism, there was the need to change the narrative by balancing out the negative aspects of African realities with the beauty and good that was found here.

He said African media entities and journalists needed to consider inculcating the principle of brand Africa in their editorial policies to ensure that their reportage delivered accurate sterling stories on Africa.

Mr Bentum-Williams said: “In moving forward, to even make the media a strategic partner in delivering the brand Africa project, championed by the UNWTO/CASA Africa, there ought to be collaboration and capacity building for members of the media to understand the issues and language of tourism to have a better appreciation of the travel and tourism sector in Africa.”

There was another discussion on new ways and routes to tell Africa’s story, where Mr Adejuwon Soyinka of the BBC Pidgin Service, Edmundo Sepa Bonaba of Wanafrica, Pere Ortin of Altair, Eduardo Saldana of El Orden Mundial del Siglo XXI, had Sebastian Ruiz as the facilitator.


Mr Soyinka observed that many people in Nigeria, Ghana and other African countries spoke pidgin, and that it had become an effective way of communicating with them.

He said through pidgin, the people felt free to discuss issues of concern and were able to understand policies and programmes better.

Another discussion on ‘Africa within the Spanish journalism: where are we going to’? had Mr Jose Naranjo, El Pais/Freelance, Gemma Parellada of the CNN/El Pais/Catalunya Radio/RFI, Trinidad Deiros, El Confidencial/Freelance, Beatriz Mesa of COPE, Alfonso Bauluz of EFE and Joan Tusell as facilitator.

Other topics discussed included Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs), the media and Africa, Internet and Freedom of Speech in Africa, Photojournalists in Africa and the Variety in the Spanish media: the more journalists we have, the more stories we get.


The opening ceremony was performed by the Director-General of CASA Africa, Mr Luis Padron.

There were also statements by the Minister for Economy, Industry, Trade and Knowledge of the government of the Canary Islands, Mr Pedro Ortega, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the government of Spain, Mr Fernando Valenzuela and a former professional basketball player, Mr Sitapha  Savane.


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