Online Course: African Continental Free trade Area (AFCFTA). The role of journalists
Reporting trade and related economics can be a daunting task for media practitioners without prior training or knowledge of this field. The challenge for most practitioners is two-fold: first understanding the concepts and then applying news gathering and writing skills to produce attention-grabbing content. With business and economics gaining salience in daily life in Botswana and around Africa, it is critical for media practitioners to acquire new skills in unpacking technical economic information and policy issues, and preparing media content with broad appeal to audiences across all media platforms, especially the ever-popular broadcast channels.
Using case studies and current issues in the news, this course takes participants on a journey of the trade economics; national & regional trade policy analysis; and global political economy. At the same time, participants are exposed to fresh strategies to gather news and report African trade and other pertinent economic issues of the continent, with specific emphasis on how keeping all media content interesting and relevant to audiences. The course pays particular attention to accurate reading and distilling of technical data; and assists participants in tackling news assignments that involve economics and business data.
Much discussion and interaction between AfCFTA and African media has identified a number of issues relating to the way forward. First, African media practitioners need to be equipped with knowledge and skills to cover intra-African trade and AfCFTA issues. AfCFTA and its priorities are still an unknown entity for many African journalists. This UN-ECA initiative should aim to create and train a cadre of journalists capable of effectively researching and covering AfCFTA issues. Such coverage should not be limited to international languages (English, French and Portuguese), but should be spread to major African languages, and disseminated through popular media such as radio.
Second, more collaboration and network-building among different national and regional news organisations and media practitioners is required. Many key issues in Africa today cannot be adequately investigated while relying on national sources alone. Yet journalists from one national context face a number of obstacles when researching and covering an issue touching on other member states or foreign news sources. Strengthening networks and relationships between individuals and organisations in African media will foster the evolution of transnational research networks. Extant research amply confirms that informal networks between African journalists played a key role in investigating news stories that led to the fall of various despotic and neo-colonial African regimes. Generally, media organisations should seek to improve their research collaboration.
Finally, African media practitioners should be encouraged to maintain regular contact as well as create a professional network of trade reporters and editors, through which to support one another. A formal network would be crucial to their continued collective effort in promoting better reporting of African trade. Research shows that an effective network would provide opportunities for members to improve their reporting skills and knowledge of African trade, as well as provide opportunities for the journalists to attend major continental gatherings that were AfCFTA related. An efficient network would also create opportunities for members to access to major personalities in African trade, for example, major researchers and award recipients. Indeed, a well-functioning network would give African media recognition to be integrated into the agenda of major continental meetings.
At the end of the course, participants should be able to:
- Introduce the target group of media practitioners to basic essentials and practices of business, economics and trade;
- Assist target group of media practitioners understand and appreciate the Africa economic development issues; and to understand and report on AfCFTA, African trade and related policy issues, and trade & International Political Economy.
- Understand and report on AfCFTA phases, benefits for country structural transformation; and where AfCFTA stands in terms of achievements and way forward.
- Understand and report on opportunities from the AfCFTA for a particular country/region, possible short term losses and how to mitigate them.
- Equip target group of media practitioners with ethical guidelines in reporting African business and economics and other public policy issues;
- Assist target group of media practitioners to improve their understanding and skills in reporting economic statistics and other technical data.