AFRICAN BEAUTY: The African continent has got rich bio-diversity which includes wild life Picture: Armand Hough`

Agenda 2063 is based on seven continental aspirations, which are:

  • A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development
  • An integrated continent based on Pan Africanism and the furtherance of Africa’s renaissance
  • An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law
  • A peaceful and secure African Union
  • An Africa with a strong cultural identity, heritage, shared values and ethics
  • An Africa with people driven development, especially women and youth, and caring for children; and
  • Africa as a strong, united, resilient and influential global player and partner.

Its first 10 Year Implementation sets specific goals at country, regional and continental levels in each of the priority sectors, and it has identified strategic flagship projects in these priority areas.

Let me take an example of one such flagship project, the creation of a Single African Aviation Market. In 2004, African airlines carried less than 40 million passengers, this nearly doubled to 73.8 million passengers in 2013. In 2014, the entire industry supported 6.8 million jobs, and is set to grow by 6 percent a year over the next few decades. And yet, according to ICAO, our failure to implement the Yamoussoukro Declaration, which commits Africa to a single market, has seen us lose close to 40 percent of air traffic within and to and from the continent.

Since January 2015, 13 countries to date are working together to amongst themselves lay the foundation for the creation of this Single Aviation Market by 2017.

Let me use a second example.

One of our aspirations is an Africa with strong cultural identity and heritage. African cultural life has always flourished, even under harsh conditions of slavery, colonialism and dictatorship. It has a rich heritage, with advanced architecture in the Sudanese and Egyptian pyramids, Ethiopia’s Obelisks, the Tunisian city of Carthage, the ruins of Great Zimbabwe as well as the old city of Timbuktu in Mali to mention a few; and the sculptures of Makonde of Tanzania, the Benin Bronzes of Nigeria, the beautiful paintings of the Drakensberg and Algeria, various artistic creations of the Egyptians demonstrate to us a continent with a great heritage.

This is in addition to our rich biodiversity (on land and the oceans), our majestic mountains, rivers, lakes, forests, deserts and Savannas, as well as pristine beaches and islands.

In contemporary global culture, Africa too holds it’s own. We are home to the third largest film industry, Nollywood; our writers are a key part of the global community of writers, and new talent continues being discovered; and the same goes for African art and music. We also have what the African Development Bank calls fashionomics, the rise of African fashion on the continent with the rest of the world, taking note. All this coupled with the fact that we are the world’s youngest continent, an increasingly technology-savvy young generation, women and girls who are asserting their rights to participate and have a voice, means that this aspiration is far from a pipe dream.

What role do we then expect from the media in this advocacy for Agenda 2063?

As we talk about defining and an evolving African progressive narrative, it seems to me we can learn some lessons from what those in your sector called “development journalism”.

One definition of this is the kind of journalism that pays sustained attention to the coverage of ideas, policies, programmes, activities and events dealing with the improvement of the life of people.

Yet another definition refers to it as analytical interpretation, subtle investigation, constructive criticism and sincere association with the grass-roots

Another report argues that it is journalism which also:

  • Moves “beyond only describing what is ‘going wrong’ to also imagining what is ‘going right’ would be like.”
  • “Invites ordinary citizens back into public life by making their concerns the starting point of the debate.”
  • Moves “from people as consumers ... to seeing them as a public, as potential actors in arriving at democratic solutions to public problems;” and
  • Modifies the rules of detachment by accepting that journalists have an interest in and responsibility for raising the level of public discourse and helping society find solutions to its problems.”

Now this type of journalism has had its bad rep, simply being regarded as praise-singers of government.

However, as African journalists and media, we should be concerned about whether the lives of people are improving, and to report on a sustained basis whether we are making progress with a disease such as malaria, that still kills nearly 400 000 people a year, and on the African Centre for Disease Control, to prevent the recurrence of the devastation that Ebola wrecked on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone not so long ago.

Since the Kigali Summit in July, we have been following your sustained coverage of the issues of the African Passport, and the decision on the financing of the African Union, both issues critical to African integration and development. We also look forward sustained coverage and analysis of progress with the Continental Free Trade Area, on African skills and developments in science and technology, and engineering, on agriculture and agroprocessing.

We must give voice to our grassroots, their efforts to improve their lives, and how governments, business, civil society, the media and others can contribute to give them access to information, so that they become part of a continental drive towards inclusive and shared prosperity.

There are a number of critical reports that have emerged from your sector, about the state of media on the continent, not least the publication by the African Editors’ Forum on 50 years of African media since Ghana’s independence, and the report by Isaac Esipisu and Nixon Kariithi on New Media in Africa, to mention but two.

These and other reports and studies provide important historical data on the evolution and roots of African media – from oral traditions to print, and broadcasting – as well as the issues of ownership in the sector, and the evolution of new media on the continent.

This is important work, which you need to continue doing, so that we keep generating our own knowledge about the African media sector, critical to public policy, as well as to the training of new generation of journalists.

  • This is an edited version on a keynote address delivered by Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, at the conference hosted by the African Editors’ Forum and the African Union