[By: Farai Diza]
The 18th Highway Africa Conference came to an end on Monday at Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. This year’s conference was graced by several media professionals from all over the continent and was held under the theme: “Social Media – from the margins to the mainstream.
Over 400 delegates from 36 African countries, including mainstream journalists, academics, community media activists, and journalism students were in attendance.
Some of the speakers who shared their expertise included Uganda’s Charles Onyango-Obbo, now Editor of Mail and Guardian Africa; Bobby Malabie, Group Executive for Marketing at Barclays Africa; Grace Natabaalo (African Centre for Media Excellence); Kenyan Technology, data and information strategist Daudi Were and Songezo Zibi (Business Day Editor).
Speaking at the conference, South Africa’s Deputy Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Performance, Monitoring, Evaluation and Administration, Buti Manamela said that there is room for media and government to work together towards a sustained developmental agenda for the continent.
“By their very nature, media and government are often on different sides of the fence. Similarly, being on different sides should not be a licence to use the might of the pen to push Africa’s development backward, or to use the sharpness of the sword to silence the media into a meek and obedient drummer of African governments,” Manamela stated.
For seventeen years, the Highway Africa Conference has been at the centre of Africa’s debates on journalism, media and Information Communication Technology (ICT). The conference has over the years become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.
“MTN is proud to have the opportunity to support the work of our media. As Telecoms and digital services provider, we are conscious of the needs to enable conversations between families, communities and the global community,” said MTN Executive for Group Corporate Affairs, Chris Maroleng.
15 female journalists graduated at the conference after a yearlong Women Journalist Mentoring Programme initiated by the United States Embassy Public Affairs Section in partnership with the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Center.
Professionals also gathered to discuss how social media has impacted on all aspects of life in the last ten years.