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African Development Bank (AfDB) Group President, Donald Kaberuka, on Tuesday, May 12, 2009, in Dakar participated in an AfDB-organized media breakfast on the sidelines of the Annual Meetings where they shared perspectives on how the crisis and its impact have been covered by the continent’s media.
In his opening statement, Mr. Kaberuka described the continent’s economic situation over the last three decades and pointed out that it was the first time that the continent was going through a crisis for which it was not responsible. He underscored that the best response to the current financial crisis was to stay focused on the continent’s needs, especially on what the Bank Group was doing by developing infrastructure and institutions.
He recalled that Bank Group initiatives on trade, the Emergency Liquidity Facility, and the acceleration of resource transfers to countries eligible for the African Development Fund resources should help the continent sustain its economic gains and avoid seeing these gains being rolled back.
Other speakers who focused on the global financial crisis during the media breakfast included the Financial Times Africa Editor, William Wallis; Spectrum TV Director General, Mactar Silla; and Independent Film Producer, Carole Pineau who also served as the moderator.
Mr. Wallis used the occasion to highlight the growing role of the media as the crisis gathered momentum. He said the blame game made things worse.
He however pointed out that the media was not absent from the debate on the crisis as confirmed by a study by the Columbia University School of Journalism which focused on major media organizations such as the Financial Times, Forbes, Bloomberg. The study reveals that some 727 articles had been published between 2000-2007 and they had drawn attention to global disequilibria. However, compared to millions of other stories on other issues, it was demonstrated that the stories were not published on the first pages which are the most read.
Similarly, there was a modification of the media structure, he said. There are fewer reporters now compared to public relations professionals. The number of journalists has dropped by 2% per year over the last decade. Regarding Africa, fewer journalists are now correspondents, he said.
The second speaker, Mactar Silla, for his part, favored what he called an analysis of the African media in its diversity. He underscored that contrary to some perceptions, never has an issue been covered by the African media like the global financial crisis.
He however said that the African media should not serve as a sound box for the West. Faced with a multitude of information, journalists must play an accompanying role. “We must be governance watchdogs, while taking note of bad practices and good examples,” he said. Regarding this, he said, institutions such as the AfDB must serve as providers of quality information and know-how that would enable journalists better play their roles. Mr. Silla concluded by saying that the media should be structures with the capacity to analyze and investigate. The event was attended by over a hundred journalists.