Under the aegis of the African Union, the continental organization, the AU Media Fellowship programme is frog-leaping to create a positive and compelling brand image for the continent on the global landscape. With financial support from the African Union, media groups are constantly retraining and learning the collaborative strategic art and new skills in rebranding Africa within the emerging multipolar world and as an integral part of the African Agenda 2063.
The AU Media Fellowship Programme is a newly created
platform for cross-border collaborative journalism, which has already been
hailed for paving the way for practicing media professionals and content
creators to break away from the longstanding over-reliance on external sources
for information about developments throughout Africa.
For the one-year long fellowship, groups are broadly chosen
from different African countries. Over the past months, media fellows have been
exploring ways to not only balance narrative of developments on the continent
but also to operationalize networks and frameworks of exchange with each other
in a bid to boost the impact of their content and reporting.
After a success study tour in Germany and the African Union
(AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the group moved the Phase 3 of the
AU Media Fellowship two-week long study tour to AU organs in South Africa, at
the Pan-African Parliament.
The study tour to the AU organs and specialized agencies
began at the AU Pan-African Parliament, African Union Development Agency (AUDA-
NEPAD), Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), Africa Risk Capacity (ARC) and
South African institutions which include South Africa Broadcasting (SABC), The
MultiChoice Group, Brand South Africa, Wits School of Journalism which hosted
the 3rd series of the AU Media Roundtable. The study tour concluded with a
guided tour to the Republic of South Africa Parliament and Media Lab retreat.
The 4th Vice-President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP),
Hon. François Ango Ndoutoume, welcomed the AU Media Fellows to PAP which he
described as the home of the African people. He further refers to the role of
the PAP’s mandate to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the
economic development and integration of the continent.
“The mandate of the PAP as a representation of the
peoples of Africa cannot be implemented without engaging and involving citizens
and civil society. The media, therefore, remains the most effective tool to
achieve this objective, Ndoutoume said and continued his remarks by highlighted
the critical role the media plays in enhancing active citizen engagement.
The PAP depends on journalists to inform the public about
its work. It is also important to note that covering the continental Parliament
requires an understanding of its origin, mandate and rules of procedure,
according to his explanation, and finally called on the media to regain control
of the editorial line and the media coverage dedicated to Africa, as it is the
only way to counter negative narratives about the continent.
According to Leslie Richer, the African Union Director for
Information and Communication, cross border collaborative journalism being
shaped through the AU Media Fellowship positions media outlets and journalists
across Africa to own the narrative of the continent.
“From your study trip in Germany, Ethiopia and now in
South Africa, this connecting of thoughts will help not only to do your work
better, but also as journalists you are creating a network, you are actually
better able to address the issues on the continent and to create narratives
that we want. A balance narrative of developments on the continent, one that is
a clear representation of who we are but one that speaks of the situation that
we find ourselves in,” Richer said.
“We started this programme so that you can start
realizing that you’re not in competition with each other. There’s a bigger
challenge for us because we do not even collaborate as journalists, and that
must change. So that’s the role the African Union has to play, to bring media
houses and journalists together,” she said the Pan-Africa Parliament last
Last December, as part of the Africa Union Media Fellowship
programme, Areff Samir and Amira Sayed both AU Media Fellows -2022, hosted Dr.
Dinesh Balliah, Acting Director of the Centre of Journalism at Wits University.
Naeemah Dudan, Producer at Seen.tv, Veerashni Pillay, founder of news start-up
explain.co.za, and Lindokuhle Nzuza, project coordinator at Jamlab Africa and
panelists to unpack the changing media landscape, share best practices on how
to leverage technology to shape narratives and discuss sustainable business
model’s journalist can adopt to survive in the fast-paced media industry.
Speaking during the meeting, Dinesh Balliah, Acting Director
at the Centre of Journalism Wits University, shed light on the constantly
changing needs of media audiences in Africa. She focused on how the needs of
media consumers in Africa are fast changing, which calls for new approaches in
the media industries in Africa.
She said, “The media ecosystem is changing, and thus
the curriculum of journalism has to improve to meet the dynamic ever-changing
needs of the audiences. Today, we give assignments to students and we instruct
them to present them in different formats like podcasting, data visualization
Telling Africa stories and creating African content will be
more successful in the future when media students and practising media
personalities embrace the digital ways of practicing journalism. More people
can access the internet and search for news and media content online on
Podcasts, Twitter, blogs, and Youtube, among other platforms. In the near
future, African audiences will rely more on getting news and media content on
online platforms. This calls for a necessary and immediate revision of the journalism
curriculum in Africa.
In addition, donor companies and funding stakeholders of
different media houses are changing their selection criteria. Naeemah Dudan
listed ways of getting funders and donors to support media work. She said that
media personalities should find better approaches to donors and mentioned that
good proposals for any idea are the key to persuading donors. Therefore, media
professionals in Africa can thrive when they master the skills of writing
persuasive proposals to donors and funding stakeholders.
Lindokuhle Nzuza, the Project Coordinator at Jamlab Africa,
an incubator for innovative journalism and media in projects from across Africa
aims to strengthen innovation in African independent journalism and media, to
grow the diversity of the continent’s voices in the public space. This is a
great contribution to equip media practitioners to counter stereotypes in the
There was also a networking session with the Africa Regional
Media Hub, this is part of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Public
Affairs that works to connect U.S. policy makers and experts with media in
Africa. The session took place in December, 2022.
The Deputy Director for the US Africa Regional Media, Tiffany Jackson-Zunker has reiterated
the United States’ commitment to working with African media to include and
elevate African voices in the most consequential global conversations.
Tiffany Jackson-Zunker said “The role of the media in a
democracy is critical and our hub’s primary objective is to support
journalists, specifically those on the African continent by providing resources
on U.S.-Africa policy, opportunities to engage with U.S. officials, and
responding to queries from media representatives, the journalists who work with
us have more tools at their disposal to write the stories their audiences want
The tour provided an opportunity for the media fellows to
gain further insights into US-Africa policy, particularly pertaining to its
engagement with the media in Africa. The visit to the media hub comes after the
AU Media fellows were hosted in Ethiopia by the U.S. Permanent Representative
to the African Union Ambassador Jessica Lapenn.
Director for Information and Communication at the African
Union Commission (AUC), Leslie Richer added that “the two organizations
have a common goal of ensuring top-quality, balanced narrative on the
continent, which will result in equally high-calibre reportage and for us, a
crucial step towards achieving this is to provide the fellows with the capacity
to deliver through such interactions and tours.”
The AU Media Fellowship programme is an excellent platform
for African journalists to gain a continent-wide perspective on news creation,
media operations, their role in reframing the African narrative, and the power
of professional networking. The Africa Regional Media Hub is now a welcomed
member of their larger network, and remains as a strong supporter of the
African Union’s efforts to bolster media professionals across the continent.
Brand South-Africa, Acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO)
Sithembile Ntombela, took the AU Media Fellows through the concept of nation
branding when the Media Fellows paid a working visit to the offices of Brand
South Africa as part of activities for a two-week study trip to South Africa
for the 29th November to 10th December.
According to The Brand SA CEO, Africans must accept and
embrace the Continent’s uniqueness. “We have to recognize the uniqueness
of each and every country’s offering and package it in a way that complements
each other in grabbing the attention of the world so that Africa becomes
better. The important thing about the concept of branding Africa is the
alignment and our intentions for the development and positive impact of social
and economic benefit of all of us in Africa,” she told them.
She concluded her remarks by commending the African Union
for being instrumental in taking leadership and being a facilitator of concepts
and programmes that promotes regional integration like the AU Media fellowship.
For the final phase of the fellowship programme will be at the Continental AU
Media roundtable to discuss the future of Media in Africa in May 2023.
The AU Media Fellowship programme, is implemented by the
African Union (AU) through the Information and Communication directorate,
supported by the Germany Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ). Through
the fellowship, the AU seeks to boost ownership of key policies and programmes,
and accelerate achievement of goals under its Agenda 2063, which targets
delivering on socio-economic and development changes across Africa.