Africa had become home to a proxy war between the United States and China and the media needs to monitor it, warned a media leader at the start of a journalism conference in South Africa this weekend.
Tom Mshindi, managing director of the Nation Newspapers Division, told the gathering of editors, journalists and media industry players that these superpowers were fighting for Africa’s “oil and resources to ensure its growth”.
Mshindi was the keynote speaker at the opening of the sixteenth annual Highway Africa journalism conference in the small university town, Grahamstown, in South Africa. The conference started on Sunday and ends on Tuesday.
“Africa is now a territory for proxy wars, particularly for the United States. The media has a duty to educate its readers, viewers and listeners on what is going on. Is this another Cold War in the making?” said Mshindi.
He also said that African media should watch closely when “China invites all Africa’s leaders to Beijing and signs millions in aid”.
“Media must review the contracts and deals that are entered into. Contracts that do not leave a residual value must be studied. This is the work and the responsibility of the media.”
The media conference, organised by Rhodes University in Grahamstown, will deliberate the theme ‘Africa Rising?’ Mshindi said that Africa was has the “opportunity to change itself into the giant it should be”.
“This calls for a sea change in the way that every level of leadership has been thinking and acting. The media has an even more critical role to play… It can’t be business as usual. They are running out of excuses,” said Mshindi.
He said that Africa lost its freedom in the post-colonial era when corruption had set in. But now the continent faced a “sense of rebirth and hope”.
“Let it not be said twenty years from now that we wasted Africa’s second chance,” said Mshindi.
China’s role in Africa will meanwhile be scrutinised at various panels at the conference. Mshindi said that this growing superpower’s role on the continent, along with investments by India and Turkey, meant that most African businesses were still not independent.
“We see a rather depressing picture… Africa is dependent on industrialised countries. It resembles what prevailed then (under colonisation)… The continent has new partners in China, Turkey and India. Africa is seen as the next large-scale consumer port. But should our media be applauding, rather than taking a pause and looking at this picture and see whether it adds up?” asked Mshindi.
“This is not as a result of an organically evolved process with the African is in charge.”
The role of African media’s coverage of the continent’s geopolitics, trade and economic growth will also be discussed at a Highway Africa seminar focusing on Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS).
Professor Herman Wasserman, chairman of the Highway Africa steering committee, said that this seminar would “create the opportunity for a robust and informed exchange of ideas around the changing global geopolitical environment and the place of journalism in covering these changes and facilitating global debates”.
“Very little research in media and communication studies has focused on BRICS or its implications in a new global media order… the discussions will take place against the backdrop of the rise of the broader alignment,” said Wasserman.
PHOTO: courtesy Highway Africa.