Communicators urged to shift Africa's narrative to one of hope

Monday, May 23, 2022

Communicators around Africa have an important duty to take forward the message of a continent of hope, promise and vast potential.

This is according to Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Director-General Phumla Williams, who opened the Africa Communications Week 2022 on Monday.

Africa Communications Week is a week-long series of events in 20 countries across Africa. It kicked off today under the theme: Ahead of the Curve: What’s Next for Comms in Africa?”.

Addressing fellow communicators across the continent, Williams said in preaching the message of hope they can ensure that Africa regains its rightful place in the world.

“It begins by us working together as communication professionals to change the narrative of our continent. The coverage of disasters, famine, terrorism and corruption alone has created a distorted view of Africa.

“It has created the impression for many that the continent lurches from one crisis to another and this has a huge impact on the development of the continent and its people,” Williams said.

She emphasised that the role of communicators is to find ways to shift Africa’s narrative to one of hope.

The Director-General added that there are exciting developments on the continent that need to be communicated to citizens and the world.

“More people need to know that Africa is working hard to improve its capabilities in vaccine and medical supplies manufacturing. 

“Earlier this year, we saw NantAfrica, a division of global entrepreneur Dr Patrick Soon-Shiong’s Nantworks, launch state-of-the-art medical infrastructure to accelerate domestic production of pharmaceuticals, biologics and vaccines that will reach users across the African continent,” she said.

It is the largest genomics facility on the African continent and an important milestone in the development of advanced healthcare on the continent. “It places Africa at the forefront of genome research and bolsters the continent’s epidemic and pandemic public health response,” she said.

The Director-General urged communicators to shift their emphasis towards more proactive communication on African issues.

She said this will result in claiming the communications space on key issues facing the continent and is an opportunity to re-frame how Africa moves forward in a post-COVID-19 environment.

“We have seen that despite the COVID-19 pandemic, African nations maintained their spending on infrastructure projects and it is these stories that we need to actively share. According to the Deloitte African Construction Trends 2021 Outlook report, there was an increase in the number of infrastructure projects by a fifth compared with 2020,” she said.

Williams further advocated for the communication of Africa’s changing landscape represented by the 462 infrastructure projects on the continent valued of $521 billion.

Touching on a number of projects across the continent, Williams said the highest number of projects were in the transport sector with 197 projects, energy sector registered 88 projects while there were 85 real estate sector projects.

“African governments owned 73.8 percent of projects and they were top funders at 31.8 percent. South Africa recorded 37 projects valued at $54.7 billion. It includes the Kusile power plant, Waterfall City Development, Baywest City Precinct, Steyn City development and the Roggeveld wind power project,” she said.

Through communication, she said, they can support the continent’s recovery efforts through profiling interventions and providing regular updates that help shape the narrative for Africa.

On the economic front, African nations have a chance to build back better as they leverage advances in green and low-carbon energy in pursuit of its growth objectives.

Williams said the African Continental Free Trade Area presents enormous opportunities and the recent adoption of the AfCFTA Rules of Origin covering 87 percent of goods on the tariff lines of African Union member states is a historic breakthrough that demonstrates commitment to dramatically scaling up intra-African trade.

“We must put forward common front towards promoting Agenda 2063, which is Africa’s strategic roadmap to move us to a free, safe and fully developed continent.”

She said that Agenda 2063 is underpinned by the AU’s vision to build an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa that is a dynamic force in the international arena.

It reflects the aspirations of Africa as a continent with strong cultural identity, values, and ethics.

“In support of Agenda 2063, we can foster unity amongst all Africans across the continent. Future growth will be spurred by the continent’s commitment to Agenda 2063 to drive the social, economic and political rejuvenation of Africa,” she said.

Key lessons from COVID-19 pandemic

In the midst of the devastation caused by COVID-19, Williams said communicators have learnt key lessons.

The pandemic has demonstrated the power and value of effective communication.

“Communication became an essential tool in combating the spread of the virus and later in supporting the participation of citizens in vaccination against serious illness and death from COVID-19,” she said.

Communicators have an opportunity to build on the lessons learnt of how communications rose to the enormity of the challenges posed by COVID-19.

This is especially in light of the speed at which the pandemic is evolving; the spread of misinformation and the use of technology to ensure effective communication.

In South Africa, communications played an instrumental role in keeping South Africans abreast of critical developments in the fight against the virus, reassuring citizens at the height of the crisis and effecting behavior change.

She added that the country’s transition to the digital and virtual world through national portals, mobile apps and social media ensured the spread of information far and wide to those with access to the internet.

“The pandemic had not only tested our nation’s resolve but also the robustness of our communication system. I am proud to say that our nation’s communication systems rose to the challenge.

“In doing so we have gained valuable experience and saw first-hand what we can achieve as communicators. We saw key stakeholders and communicators unite under the National Communication Partnership directed by the Government Communication and Information System.

“The spirit of volunteerism throughout this period was unsurpassed and should be harnessed once more by us as communicators to catapult Africa forward,” she said. –

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