Africa Blogging: A Solution to Solving Journalistic Challenges in the African Political Landscape
I was fortunate to be invited at the capacity of Information Technology and Media Expert to the #AfricaBlogging 2022 conference which was conducted from the 13th to 16th of March at the Grand-Bassan, Côte d’Ivoire. This meeting hosted by KAS Media Africa, brought together professional bloggers and thus convened thirteen African countries of Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, DR Congo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Cameroon, Togo, South Sudan, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, South Africa and Germany.
The Africa Blogging bilingual network is home to 12 sub-saharan countries. Drawn from an Introductory Information Package, #AfricaBlogging is a member-driven network of online thought leaders who are bound by their conviction to offer balanced political reporting and commentary. The inspiration behind the Africa Blogging platform and network is derived from the media landscape in the majority of African countries where state media dominates and the government intervenes in the media which inevitably causes self-censorship of non-state owned media.
Understanding role of Media at local context
Media is what shapes the world we live in. It has power to set a foundation of information and how it can be narrated, and has power to shape what influences a community in particular or nation at large on what is to be done, how it should be done and why it should be done. While African Media has over the years been distorted whether deliberately or out of consequences, the narrative has not been friendlier when applied to local context. This more when news was relied more on foreign media houses than the local voices.
While it is indeed true, as stated by the experts Terry Flew and Silvio Waisbord; that national media systems, and the comparative study of media systems, institutions, and practices, retains relevance in an era of media globalisation and technological convergence (see — here). The fact remains that the majority of powerful media houses and systems are state owned or owned by persons with personal agenda to influence at a national level.
The nature of governance and nurtured environment in the fourth estate whether regulated, self-regulated or both, augments censorship and control by the ruling government in most sub-saharan African countries. It has been evidently observed that the International Media outlets have more chances of reporting what is happening on the ground (if not in the interest or acceptable by the ruling government) than local owned media outlets. Citing the Press freedom index in Africa in 2021, by country it shows how the majority of sub-saharan African countries level is, and the results are not good in most. This then eliminates on the crystal clear need and relevance of the Africa Blogging platform in particular and network in general.
The significance of Africa Blogging and what it means
In a world where access to information is made easy through technology, giving in real time information regardless the time, space and location as long as you have the right tools - it would be taken for granted that all information is readily available, as should be. It is not. The majority of sub-Saharan governments as explained above, want to be in control of the narrative. This most times poses as a challenge to journalists in their respective areas. Africa Blogging easily provides an avenue of co-journalism and a mechanism of news coverage without self-censorship or censorship by respective government agencies. The platforms creates mechanism of easily sharing key and significant national information without necessarily jeopardising one’s safety on the ground.
One of the purposes of Africa Blogging need lie into grasping challenges in the Media Landscape and turning the ‘blocks’ for free and independent press as an opportunity for impartial objective set of news, cataloging on equal coverage of valid-impactful news and information significant to respective nations. With contemporary resources, Technology provides an avenue of ‘trial and error’ on how news can be curated, created and produced as means to do away with speculations, theorisation and the bewildering breathless press.
Embracing Challenges as opportunities for Bloggers in general
The variety of ways information can be created and shared, has given birth of new groups of digital nomads, each tribe having a group of excellent users (Influencers), who have the power of followers, influence and control of narrative. Online reach and impact (positive or negative) relies not on the quality of content alone; in most cases the sillier and absurd the content, the more the reach and thus the influence of what is being consumed. Logic and journalist ethics has the media professionalism wanting to believe and abide by the stance that “only quality content deserves to be consumed by the community”; but the Internet does not condone to the belief through its systematic ways which always aim and profitability. The positive side of this is that the Influencers are of all sorts, we have Social Media Influencers; with great content very active on Social Media Networks. The questions is how does a blogger or blogging network partner with influencers and create a mutual-benefits working relationship? The answer can be easily found in being open to the thought and partnership.
2. Creating Discoverable Content
Digital Innovation and the future of prospective Journalism requires any blogger who intends to be serious with their news and information to learn key digital skills relevant and direly needed in their field at a minimum of at least five basic skills. It no longer is an option in doing extra to push content published on blogs to other platforms in a way that will prompt more readership and consumption to the target audience. Skills include such as content creation for social media platforms, online community management, technics of fact-checking, multimedia reporting, content visualisation and many others. Distinguishing and understanding needs of the variety of platforms easily creates avenue for ease in effective adoption.
National Politics versus National Development
National politics are the key drivers of national development or lack of it, it is not supposed to be so — but it remains as fact for the majority of sub-Saharan Africa. Informed decision relies entirely on a free and independent press within the nation. Understanding mechanisms and what is subject to control and censorship of media houses as a result of the authority’s realm of delirium brings in need of Africa Blogging as an attempt to overcoming the complexity of politics as a determinant of national development and media press.