Inter Region Economic Network (IREN) hosted The 14th IREN Eastern Africa Media Forum on March 31- April 2, 2016 in Mombasa. The event focused on “The African Agency in Geopolitical Affairs and The Role of Media”. Participants were drawn from East Africa member states, mostly journalists and specialists in Geopolitical Affairs.
The objectives of the IREN East Africa Media Forum included: provide a platform for media practitioners to brainstorm on geopolitical issues; to determine the extent and impact of Africa’s involvement in Geopolitical affairs; to discuss factors limiting African agency in geopolitical affairs and suggest steps for strategic and sustained African agency in geopolitical affairs.
In his opening remarks Mr. James Shikwati, Founder Director IREN observed: “In geopolitics, Africa paints an image of a continent that simply reacts to external maneuvers but is either naïve or too lazy to dare and move.” He further pointed out that the bubbly Kenyan politics and how opponents deploy to contain each other shows innate possibility for Africans to be proactive in geopolitics. Ms. Rasna Warah, a Writer and Independent Researcher urged media to be analytical and research (dig deeper) into tools that used to drive geopolitical agendas. She described such tools as foreign aid, financial and trade systems.
“No image is Innocent. Eastern Africa journalists should explore the power of imagery in their stories. Africa should think of using soft power (images, movies, art and culture) to drive their agenda. Communicating through images is an effective tool that has been used by different civilizations for centuries,” said Dr. Onyango Oketch, a Visual Artist based in Nairobi. “Eastern Africa journalists need to counter presiding narratives about Africa by working closely with think tanks and communication experts to bolster their ability to do thorough stories on issues affecting Africa.” Mr. Edward Wanyonyi, the Regional Content Research Advisor, BBC Africa Section.
Discussions also dwelt on the youthful population in Africa and their thirst for information. Mr. Churchill Otieno, Senior Editor at Nation Media Group pointed out that: “Today, half of the African population is the youth, more urbanized with short attention span to traditional media. We should strategize on ways to reach out and communicate with them.”
During the Forum, the participants recommended that the media should play a greater role in domestication of the new media (social media) and creation of Africa specific kinds to enable them communicate to a wider audience. Journalists need to be truly aware of matters affecting Africa and set a clear agenda on what they really want to achieve in the global setting.
For the last thirteen years, IREN has hosted forums for over 500 journalists and communicators from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Zambia and South Sudan who cover business, governance and other developmental issues.
About Inter Region Economic Network (IREN)
The Inter Region Economic Network Ltd (IREN) has managed business competitions and enterprise screening platforms for the last 15 years. IREN is a leading independent African think tank that promotes ideas and strategies geared towards causing prosperity in Africa through free enterprise and sound public policy. IREN has 3 Key Focus Areas:
•Think Tank: with platforms that analyze and give suggestions on public policy innovation to promote prosperity and wealth creation in Africa.
•Enterprise Development: with platforms that grow investible and investor ready enterprises in Africa.
•Consultancy whose aim is to grow productivity and markets in Africa.