By Justice R. Clarke, contributor
“For Africa to take its rightful place in the world, it is vital that the media space should not be overshadowed primarily by naysayers constantly fixated with a negative narratives,” says Dr. Victor Oladokun, Director of Communications and External Relations of the African Development Bank (AfDB).
Oladokun made the statement in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire at the start of a three-day Sustainable Development Reporting course for African journalists which ended on Saturday, June 1, 2019.
The training, organized by the AfDB in partnership with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, sought to further capacitate journalists from at least 21 countries in Africa (a first phase focusing on West Africa) to move their reporting beyond the policy objectives to specific needs in different communities across the continent, and discover innovative business ideas that could help lift people from poverty.
In its new agenda, the AfDB, building on its existing 2013-2022 Strategy, has outlined five development priorities it refers to as the “The High 5s” to: Light up and Power Africa; Feed Africa; Industrialize Africa; Integrate Africa; and Improve the Quality of Life for the People of Africa.
Dr. Oladokun said Africa can be better understood in terms of its challenges, development and tremendous opportunities when people and particularly journalists are storytellers that will help change the lens through which the rest of the world looks at the continent.
“For instance, we cannot feed the world, world without Africa, a continent with 65% of all uncultivated arable land left in the world. So, of necessity, the future of food will depend on what Africa does with its agriculture potential,” he said.
He added that millions of young people on the continent are not motivated to go into the agricultural sector, believing that the media can play a pivotal role in breaking that barrier through providing the right kind of analysis and reportage that will change the sad story.
“I have always been intrigued by an age-old philosophical question about observation and perception: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” he rhetorically asked.
Within the context of observing, seeing, and shaping the African narrative, Dr. Oladokun further wondered that: “If a continent, a nation, a people, an institution, or an organization, has a profound impact, but the media is unable to amplify the sound of success and development, what difference does it make?
This is a philosophical twist that can point to many different directions, but the point is that without the media and without good journalism, there is no narrative, and there is no sound of a tree falling, he said.
“We are custodians of a narrative that can inspire and give wings to dreams. Through the work that we do, we are able to provide hope, meaning, direction, and opportunities for millions of young African men and women each and every day,” Dr. Oladokun said.
Notwithstanding the bank’s call for journalists to create a huge positive discourse about development on the continent, it was equally obviously important for them to hold to the fire the feet of people in authority that those people be accountable to the populations in the common good of the public.
It can be recalled that the AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina, in his inaugural address in 2015, said that targets within the “High 5” framework were essential for transforming the lives of Africans, and are significant to the global attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Between 2015 and 2018, said Dr. Oladokun, the AfDB along with key partners and donors was able to ensure that 16 million people were connected to new or improved electricity; 70 million people gained access to improved agricultural technologies; and 9 million people benefited from private sector investment projects.
Also, 55 million people gained access to better transport services, and 31 million people benefited from improved access to water and sanitation, he says.