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Media Professionalism in West Africa – what next?

Civil societies, institutions, media houses and journalists in West Africa are vigorously striving to renew and enforce conducive spheres for media practitioners and media houses to secure freedom of expression, access to information, democracy and good governance in the sub region through media excellence.

It is in this guise that The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) organised an event to promote media professionalism, reward and inspire media excellence in West Africa on the 27 and 28 of October, 2017.

The MFWA event dubbed The West African Media Excellence Conference and Awards (WAMECA) brought together journalists, media houses, and experts in the fields of freedom of expression, media and development, editors, academicians, MFWA local and national partners as well as other high profile personalities from governments, embassies, corporate bodies and civil society organisations.

The event which was also graced by the presence of the Gambian Minister for Information – Hon. Demba Ali Jawo and his Ghanaian counterpart – Hon. Mustapha Abdul – Hamid, Minister for Information and other dignitaries paved the way for gurus in the media industry to brainstorm on issues affecting journalists and the entire industry for a way forward.

This work will examine some of the challenges plaguing media professionalism as highlighted by seasoned media practitioners and experts during the MFWA’s WAMECA and how these issues can be resolved to establish purposeful and impact oriented journalism in West Africa and possibly the whole of African.

Major issues confronting the media landscape in West Africa

Insecurity surrounding journalism practice. Journalists in the sub region face enormous challenges which affect their performance. Prominent of these challenges is the fragile state of the security of journalists. The sub region just like other regions in Africa has recorded many cases of aggression, violence and even murder of journalists. The fear of being murdered like some of their colleagues or being targeted weakens the ability of journalists in the region to effectively carry out their activities.  Even though not many or alarming recent cases of journalists killed have been registered for over a considerable period in the sub region, vivid images of the fate of journalists who were killed or tortured are still very sharp for journalists to ignore. Some of these cases include; Nobert Zongo in Ouagadougou – Burkina Faso, Eberimah Manneh of Gambia and a handful of others.

Abandonment of journalistic ethics and values: Journalists have gradually abandoned the tradition of investigations to publishing unverified information from social media and other unprofessional and contestable sources. The use of information from the social media for reporting without thorough investigation discredits journalists and media houses. The issue is further exacerbated by the fact that most journalists have forgone the ethics of the profession and clinch to blogging and issuing of alerts rather than undertaking the thorough research and investigative procedure before publication; which has in turn negatively played down on the industry. This is gradually building up to doubts and distrust of information from journalists and rather pushing readers to turn to patronising information from social media platforms and other sources; after all what difference does it make? Noted some readers.

Effects of impunity on journalism practice: Many journalists go through a lot of intimidation and threats from individuals and statesmen cloaked with impunity. This includes politicians and tradition rulers who often persecute journalists and prevent them from accessing information and end up scot-free. For instance a traditional ruler in Ghana forced a journalists to kneel under the sun for about four hours for reporting on some irregularities the former was part. Such humiliating and dehumanising circumstances pose as impediments to journalists on the field. However, “journalists are too powerful and too loud for state actors to ignore’’ stated Muheeb Saeed – Programme Officer of the MFWA.

Influence of politicians:  The act of relying on politicians for funding and other support is gradually ruining the media industry in West Africa. Journalists who rely on politicians end up compromising the quality and content of information they publish; thus rendering journalistic works fragile and contestable. It is obvious that Journalists report on every aspect of the society including politics but then they must shun reliance on politicians so as to uphold journalistic values and ethics to avoid damaging and discrediting the noble profession. Even though politicians seem to exert a lot of influence on journalists, there still exist a good number of journalists in the sub region who do well to sustain the standards of the metier.

Misunderstandings and internal conflicts between journalists: Sometimes journalists and media houses fight each other to a point where their ability to function as a group for the achievement of shared values and common goals is shattered.  This in itself plays negatively on their individual security and weakens solidarity that can help propel a collative fight for the protection of their rights and other demands of the industry.

The impact of resurgent political crisis on journalism in West Africa: The sub region like most African regional blocks is often plagues by deadly political and constitutional manifestations. During such period, journalists in the course of doing their work end up trading their security or being targeted by individuals or groups of persons. In addition, journalists in such countries are unable to effectively and efficiently play their role to shape good governance and democracy through development reporting due to frequent attacks and aggression from security forces who with orders from higher authorities do not want the media to cover such happenings. This is in a bid to conceal evidences. The recent cases of confiscation of recording materials and brutality from security forces on journalists in Togo, Gambia, and Burkina Faso were cited as typical examples of typical challenges journalists are subjected to in such environments.

The wake of the social media: Recent trends and dynamics of the social media such as Facebook and twitter platforms are exerting negative influence and pose great threats to journalistic practice and the entire professional communications industry. The social media which has the propensity to spread information faster than journalists who require much time to investigate and verify sources before publishing, reduces the anxiety of readers to go for professional journalistic publications. This affects journalism in that before journalists could publish their statements or articles, almost everyone in the community already got the information (sometimes diluted and porous). This reduces patronage, hampers achievement of desired impacts and financial gains for the industry.

Inadequate branding and identification materials for journalists: It was also observed that most media houses these days ignore the significant role branding and identification materials play in facilitating the work and security of journalists on the field. Most often, journalists present themselves to events without any sign or proof that they are journalists or from a media house. This exposes them to attacks as aggressors perceive them to be some individual who might not be working in their interest on the field. Sometimes they are denied access to information or event venues for lack of substantial proof that they are journalists. Non adherence to media professionalism and ethics highly endangers journalists. Some cases of aggression and violation of the rights of journalists cannot be taken up by organisations such as the Media Foundation because at most times the journalists concern are at fault in one way or the other. Doing the right thing will ensure the security and defence of journalists whenever they experience any form of attack.

Existence of many less techno savvy journalists: Still within the scope of the social media and recent technological developments related to communication, it is so unfortunate and frightening to note that at this present age, many journalists in West Africa are completely in the dark when it comes to recent dynamics in the communication industry. Many journalists do not have a single social media account and are not in the know of what transpires on such platforms whereas it indirectly or directly affects their work. How can the media and journalists in particular combat the negative influence the social media is posing on the industry if they are not conversant with   happenings on such platforms or versed with current technological trends that can improve their performance?

It is very true that the social media is plagued by credibility issues, fake news and professional journalists are not expected to function in that light but there is need to be familiar with recent communication technologies that could help promote the industry and facilitate the work of journalists. Media practitioners should bear in mind that technology advances faster than they ever imagine as such they must endeavor to be in the loop at all times.

Double standard nature of journalistic publications: Another canker that plagues the communication industry and journalism is the publication of lies and fake propaganda by some workers in the industry.  Journalists nowadays are capable of taking time to put up as much as four pages of lies and fake information to the general public. Some journalists go as far as falsely accusing and tarnishing the reputation of individuals which might never or not easily repaired. This malpractice has gone a long way to raise and fortify the issue of the credibility of information journalist publish, damaging the practice and drastically reducing patronage. In this light, the Ghana Minister for information, Hon. Mustapha Abdul-Hamid emphasised that journalists should make sure that the information they send out is credible and well verified so as to avoid using a pen within a few minutes to damage someone’s reputation that might be very difficult to redress.

Recurrent Internet blackout: African governments have recently resorted to blocking the internet or rendering the service ineffective during crisis and manifestations to prevent freedom of expression and access to information. The West African sub region is not an exception to this hazardous violation of the peoples’ rights to express themselves or access information. Such infringement on these basic human rights has been recorded in some West African countries such as Togo during the 2017 political and constitutional crises. Although this is not aimed at targeting journalist’s in particular, it directly affects the activities and performance of journalists and the communication industry

Mitigating challenges and curbing excesses within the media industry in West Africa.

Fund raising to finance the activities of journalists: As earlier mentioned, the inability of journalists to fund their initiatives negatively plays down on their output in the industry.  They either rely on politicians and end up compromising journalism ethics or delay in publishing information unlike the social media or publish less investigated information. To address these issues, journalists are encouraged to work hard and devise means and ways of acquiring money for their reportage and other activities. The availability of funds will also enable them do their work effectively and get well investigated information out fast enough to match the pace at which social media users do.

Social media friendly and techno savvy journalists: Journalists need to engage and interact on social media platforms. There is urgent need for journalists to make good use of social media platforms to get the populace access information they publish as most people have turn to rely on social media platforms for news and happenings than listening to the radio or watching news on television. Journalists should be very versed with recent technology – programmes and gadgets to meet up with the changing trends in the communication industry.

Exhibition of professionalism and respect for the stipulations of constitutions on journalism: Adherence to media professionalism and ethics will keep journalists out of trouble. This will pave the way for defence systems for journalists in cases of aggression. Proper branding and identification of journalists on duty is very important as it assures their security. Journalists can only avoid branded materials and identification when reporting on dangerous and other sensitive issues that may result to harm on their part.

Effective cross border collaboration: Challenges confronting journalists in the sub region are common and so media houses should create solid networks across borders and work together to protect themselves and promote effective journalism. Journalists in West Africa should unite and collaborate to fight for their rights and security. For example if there is a story that can jeopardize the security of a journalists in his or her country, the story can be sent to journalists in other countries for publication. The publication of that information in another country will end up reaching its target readers, create the required impact and results in that country and the entire region.

Avoidance of statements and publications that can fuel violence: In as much as governments and organisations such as the Media Foundation are fighting for the rights and security of Journalists, media practitioners should avoid instigating violence, falsehood, hate speeches and character defamation etc through their publications. The deployment of this tactic will only end up frustrating the campaign to protect journalists and promote freedom of expression and access to information. “Journalists should learn not to abuse the freedom of expression and security they are clamouring for by doing whatever they want and how they want’’ echoed the Ghana Minister for information. They should always remind themselves of the ethics of the field. He added that West African states are and will definitely continue to initiate and implement measures to protect the media industry but journalists should not causes leaders to question their credibility.

The footprints of Gambia and Ghana: The Gambian Minister for information stated that his country and ministry in particular is currently working with the ministry of justice to establish media reforms in favour of journalists and freedom of expression and access to information. He also indicated that his ministry is building a strong media family that will ensure the security of journalists in Gambia. Other countries in the sub region such as Ghana are also working hard to protect journalists and ensure freedom of expression and access to information. These initiatives he added will hopefully encourage other African countries within the sub region to follow suit to revitalise the industry.

Exchanges and working visits: In a bid to avoid journalists being targeted for reporting on sensitive issues or covering manifestations and other violent incidences, Journalists from other countries could travel to countries in crisis to assist in reporting on the situation although their security must be taken in to consideration. This way, the security of journalists in the crisis infested country will be safe from attacks and aggression during and after the incident.

It is worth noting that even though this work is based on journalism practice in West Africa, the challenges confronting the media landscape in Africa cuts across the entire African continent.  Hence, well-coordinated and concerted efforts are needed to revitalise, promote and project the media and journalists in Africa for the industry to assert its indispensable role in development, democracy and good governance in Africa.

 

 

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UBT Nurtures Community Teen Change Makers

In December 2016, 25 successful applicants, 16 girls and 9 boys from 5 regions (Upper East, Greater Accra, Northern, Eastern and Upper West regions) reported for a one week thought provoking, active learning, fun-filled and creative residential training programme at the University of Ghana, Legon. This programmes was organized by the Under the Baobab Tree Programme (UBT) to nurture, support and partner with socially conscious 15 – 19 year olds in Ghana, who aspire to be problem solvers and agents of transformational change and progress. UBT equips teenagers to develop and implement their solutions to challenges in their communities using a social entrepreneurial approach.

The young change makers have the dire desire to address challenges within their communities such as sanitation, literacy, social protection and green issues. From the 25 applicants, 13 submitted sanitation related project ideas, Literacy (6), Social Protection (5) and Green Issues (1).

A network of 29 professional resource persons from the UBT network, took these youngsters through a series of project management and leadership sessions and inspirational talks to empower them to realise their change making ideas.

In addition, the participants attended field trips to community based and life transforming social project sites, to gain practical knowledge and observe some of the realities surrounding social projects. They visited the Share Foundation and the Safisana bio gas plant located in Tema and Ashiaman in Greater Accra respectively. They also had a well-deserved recreational trip to Lagma beach – Krokobite!

Participants used the knowledge acquired from the one week residential programme to refine and resubmit their project ideas for the UBT flagship project shortlisting. Resubmission was also meant to be a selection criteria unto the next phase of the programme – UBT mentorship scheme.

Out of the 25 participants who attended the residential programme, 13 resubmitted and 2 flagship projects were selected by a group of independent judges in February and March 2017.

The selected projects were:

  • The ‘‘JUST DO IT’’ Frafraha Literacy and Numeracy project in Adenta – Greater Accra Region by Desmond Mensa, age 18.
  • The ‘‘DANKU POGBA DUNNII GUOLUBU TUNA’’ project aimed at empowering and improving the financial status of the women in the Danku community in Wa – Upper West Region, through animal rearing by Asiya Suleman, age 16.

UBT therefore, continued the journey with the mentoring of the 13 participants who resubmitted. The implementation of the two flagship projects began in July, 2017. The 13 UBTers have been an immense source of inspirations to their peers in school and within their communities.

Generally, the UBT has created a lot of impacts on its participants. The programmes has helped them built their self-confidence, develop their leadership, critical thinking and problem solving skills.  Apart from person development and the flagship projects that are creating great impacts in the beneficiary communities, the other UBTers are also leading change in their communities. Some of them have engaged in laudable initiatives such as organization of reading classes for children in their communities and working on improving sanitation within their communities. For instance, Michael Sowah with the help of his mentor has been meeting with the management of a bus station to conclude strategies on managing filth that has engulf the station in his community.

Although motivated and eager to create change in their communities, the UBT team realized that the nurturing process of these young people must go beyond a one week residential capacity building and mentorship programmes etc for effective results.  A lot more emphasis needs to be placed on developing the critical thinking of UBTers, their problem solving skills and ability to evaluate and debate issues in a more effective and impactful way.

 

 

 

Citizens Journalism: A Threat to Mainstream Media?

The advent of citizen journalism is fasting becoming a potential tool in promoting freedom of expression and building of open and democratic societies. In countries where poor infrastructures, press censorship and repressive regimes impede the activities of mainstream media, citizen journalism is rapidly helping to fill the gap.

Citizen journalism (CJ), also known as social journalism, can be referred to as a situation where members of the society play active roles in collecting, analysing and sharing information and opinions outside mainstream media institutions. The phenomenon is rapidly graining grounds with developments in internet services and new media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and blogs etc.

It has provided the opportunity for the voiceless to be heard and citizens  to question duty bearers, reveal hidden issues, share opinion and participate in the socio-economic and political life of their communities and trigger reactions from governments.

CJs have changed the status of citizens from passive consumers of news to interactive consumers and thereby contributing to bring change in the society. It has exposed lots of issues that would have gone unreported, and has greatly fostered the freedom of expression agenda as citizens are able to express themselves without being restricted. Individuals and groups of people or organisations with no formal training in journalism have successfully organised online campaigns that have  put power under control and impacted the society.

For instance, in July 2009, a Pakistani political icon – Miss Shumaila Rana was forced to resign from the a political party for shopping with a stolen credit card. Miss Shumaila Rana was recorded shopping in a super market with an allegedly stolen credit card and the recoding released to GEO-TV in Pakistan. GEO-TV aired the recording and the issue was investigated leading to her resignation from the party.

Also, during the 2009 Iranian elections, journalists were banned from reporting on the elections. CJs again played a vital role in the reporting process of the elections.  Individuals twittered information which the mainstream media used in reporting on the situation at the global level.

In 2017, individuals together with organised bodies launched a campaign on twitter dubbed #BringBackOurInternet calling on the government of Cameroon to restore internet services in the Anglophone regions of the country. The campaign contributed immensely in pushing the government of Cameroon to restore internet connections in the regions.

CJs equally played a key role in the Arab Spring revolution which finally led to a transition to constitutional democratic governance in Tunisia in May, 2018. CJs dominated the mobilisation protests and also in sharing information on the situation in every nook and cranny of the country. Similar campaigns across the globe have influenced government actions.

In July 2018, a video of a woman being beaten at a banking hall by a police officer in Ghaha went viral on social media. The video became the main source of information on which the media relied to investigate and report on the incident. It attracted the attention of duty bearers who investigated the matter and had the police officer arrested for prosecution.

The issue as to whether CJ is fast taking the place of the mainstream media, and that professional journalism is gradually losing its value, remains challenging to answer. While some people hold the view that CJ has caused the mainstream media to loose its monopoly over news and particularly breaking-news, others believe that CJ is rather a supportive and complementary tool for media outlets.

The former opinion is premised on the fact that professional journalists and mainstream media outlets must work extra hard to retain supremacy in the information industry. They must embrace technology, acquire the necessary tools, upgrade themselves on its usage and increase the speed at which they publish information for public consumption, otherwise, they might not remain very relevant to consumers. This is so because before they publish information, CJs would have already done the job on varied and convenient platforms for the people.

Apart from that, speed factor in itself is deemed problematic in the sense that journalists in a bid to publish information before the CJs do, might get unverified or fake information to the general public.

However, CJ can be a very resourceful tool to professional journalists and the mainstream media in general. Some media experts (for example) believe that the mainstream media can collaborate with CJs to produce high quality and evidence-backed content. Mainstream media journalists are not present everywhere and not always on the field to bring updates on stories earlier reported or new developments and sudden happenings around communities but citizens are. Media organisations can collaborate with identified citizen journalists to furnish them will such information. It might just require them to record or take pictures of an incident and share with a media organisation for scrutiny and publication, as was seen in the July 2018 report on the woman beaten at a bank in Ghana.

In highly inaccessible areas or events where media men are not allowed, CJs can bridge the gap by sharing information on which mainstream media can feed on to generate stories for local and international consumption.  This was the case with the 2009 Iranian elections, where the media fed on reports from citizens on twitter to report on the entire elections in the country.

In fact some media outlets, such as Grocott’s Mail of the department of journalism, University of Rhodes, recognise the importance of CJs and have successfully worked with citizens to generate interesting stories in communities such as Grahams Town, South Africa. The newspaper created a platform called “Lindaba Ziyafika” which featured reports from citizens in Graham’s town on happenings in their communities. Steven Lang, the founder of “lindaba Ziyafika” initiative noted that “…with CJ in our newspaper, we are strengthening our relationship with our readers. This is good for the community and really good for us, the newspaper as well.”

Another reputable platform that recognises the power and relevance of citizen journalism is “Global Voices” a project of the research centre of the Harvard University, USA. The initiative has become a great platform through which citizens around the World share information on what is happening around them.

Geo-TV, a Pakistani TV station created a platform called “Geo Dost” to amplify the voices of the citizen journalist in telling stories within their communities. The station created local bureaus that examined stories submitted by CJs before submitting to the central offices for airing. This platform has enabled many Pakistani to report on incidences that would have gone unreported in the country.

From the above and many others, it has become evident that the advent of CJ does not seem to pose a threat to mainstream media, and of course, not any time soon.

First, its usage is limited to particular groups of people – who can read and write to be able to use the platforms, whereas the mainstream media, particularly the radio, air programmes in local languages where people do not need to be educated to understand content.

The credibility and reliability of information from CJ is equally another issue. How trustworthy is the information CJs dish out? People are faced with a pool of information to filter relevant and truthful information. Besides, CJ reports are often exaggerated and opinion-based. CJ do not observe codes of conduct or ethics and standards of journalism. Most often, they do not package stories in a consumer-friendly manner. This makes the mainstream media to remain the ultimate and indisputable source of information to the people.

In conclusion, a Citizen journalist can be an enriching complementary source of information for the mainstream media. The Mainstream media can incorporate reports from the citizen journalist to get wider coverage of the country. They could simply put in place a unit to further scrutinise reports submitted by CJs before airing. Mainstream media organisations can further identify, train and partner with CJs throughout the country to be able to cover events happening in communities in the country.

 

 

Media Reportage on Corruption: Panellists Make Key Recommendations

Corruption within the media, absence of a broadcasting law, decreasing interest in capacity building, financial challenges, lack of passion and commitment, dearth of collaboration, fragile transparency in media ownership and politicisation of the media constitute some of the challenges that undermine media performance. The rush for breaking news without adequate investigation and the craving of journalists to emulate celebrity lifestyles are also setbacks to media credibility.

Speaking during a forum on media and corruption organised by The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) in collaboration with DW Akademie, a panel of experts from the Media, Academia and Civil Society pointed out that the media in Ghana is increasingly falling short of expectations in terms of journalism standards and general performance for the above stated reasons.

To surmount these pitfalls, revamp the media sector and enhance the media’s role in fighting corruption, the forum outlined the following vital recommendations.

Establishment of a Media Fund: The industry should set up a fund to support investigative journalism and sponsor committed journalists to uncover acts of corruption in the country

Advocate for the Passing of a Broadcasting Law: The industry needs to campaign for the institution of a broadcast law to tackle the situation where journalists are forced to abstain from investigating certain acts of corruption or not to publish compelling investigative works because of threats from media owners and other gatekeepers.

Constant Capacity Building: Media house owners and journalists should endeavour to continuously undertake capacity building to upgrade themselves, share experience and support each other to improve performance.

Collaboration between Journalists and Media Houses: Media owners and journalists must work together to effectively fight corruption and encourage investigative journalism in the country. When a journalist or a media outlet broadcast/publish an investigate story or a incidence of corruption, other journalists and media houses should immediately pick up the issue, examine other angles of the subject matter and create noise around it to get the necessary stakeholder attention and action.

Improvement of Working Conditions: The conditions of service of most journalists need to be improved. Media house owners should work towards improving the pay packages of their journalists. They should also ensure that other expenses, such as transport to cover events, are taken care of to enable journalists effectively perform their duties. This implies that the media needs to create innovative ways of raising extra funds to support their work.

Engagement of Lawyers: The media should seek to engage lawyers for legal support to prevent journalists from ignorantly violating certain laws in the course of their work and earn appalling sanctions. The presence of lawyers will also keep perpetrators who often threaten and discourage journalists investigating acts of corruption.

Transparency in Media Ownership Processes: Media ownership conditions should be reviewed and transparency highly observed to ensure that the sector is owned by people with the right mind-sets to foster credibility and reliability of the industry.

Non-Politicisation of Corruption Issues: Journalist should avoid politicisation of corruption issues and abstain from sabotaging each other for selfish gains.

At the end of the forum, the panellists were objective that if the media adopts these recommendations, the sector will not only effectively support the fight against corruption in Ghana but also adequately play its society watchdog role

KNUST To Host 2018 Global Goals Summit

On the 2nd and 3rd of February, 2018, young students and professionals with keen interest in the sustainable development goals will converge at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) Kumasi to elevate the African youth voices and create a community of purpose for co-generation of ideas and awareness on the SDGs. The event will be marked by Knowledge sharing, exchange of ideas and networking on issues related to the 2030 development agenda and its achievement.

The summit will further provide an opportunity for young people in Ghana, SDGs achievers, development partners and the private sector to dialogue and develop innovative ways of ending poverty, unemployment, conflict and combat climate change in West Africa.

 

Local Governance Issues in Africa

To build stronger democracies and ensure standard development over time, African nations have resorted to strengthening citizens’ participation in governance from the grass root level to the national level. Decentralisation processes such as local governance structures to propel development at all levels of the society have been put in place.

Local governance can be defined as the process whereby ordinary citizens are engaged to assess their own needs and participate in local project planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring. It is important in that it impacts national development by improving resource management, reducing poverty and corruption as well as making public servants and political leaders accountable to the people.

In a nutshells, it improves policies’ responsiveness to the population’s needs at the national level and drives development at the grass root level as citizens make creative and innovative proposals to solve developmental challenges.

Local governance is recognised and practised in almost if not all parts of the World. In most African countries, the governance structure is either referred to as local government areas, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies or councils as in Nigeria, Ghana and most French African countries respectively.

As expected, many stakeholders ranging from government, local authorities, assembly/council officials, ordinary citizens, Civil Society Organisations and the Media play indispensable roles for local governance to create the desired impact.

Whether or not the local governance achieve its objectives and targets depends entirely on the degree at which all groups of stakeholders play their roles. The actualisation of local governance objectives on the supply side rest on the extent to which local governance authorities raise funds to achieve their goals.  On the demand side, the ability of the citizens to pay their taxes and fulfill other civic obligations.

Unfortunately, there has always existed a strong “culture of silence in governance” on the part of the citizenry for a number of reasons. So therefore, the raison d’etre of local governance has not been fully exploited in most African countries. This is due to a number of reasons which include:

  • Citizens lack of understanding on what, when and how to exercise their right to participate in local governance.
  • The lack of information on the citizens rights in local governance which is further exacerbated by weak accountability and transparency and distrust of authorities by the citizenry.
  • Lack of trust and collaboration between local governance authorities and the citizens to stir development is a huge challenge to local governance processes.
  • Wanton corruption, accountability and transparency issues. Both authorities and citizens find it difficult to agree and collaborate to foster development and good governance because of persistence of these issues
  • Most citizens do not observe their civic obligation to pay taxes. Taxes constitutes one of the primary sources of raising funds for community development initiatives. Citizens inability to pay taxes goes a long way to affect the level of development in the community. This often emanate from the fact that citizens accuse their authorities of misappropriation of funds and other malpractices
  • Absence of clearly defined procedures and structures for community engagement in the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of development interventions  in most countries.

However, it should be noted that citizens are gradually opening up and must be educated and encouraged to break barriers and play their role in the governance process. The following could improve understanding, engagement and collaboration between  officials and citizens.

  • Education, engagement  and empowerment of citizens. The masses should be continually educated and reminded to contribute to development initiatives in their communities.
  • Citizens should be empowered to be bold enough to hold their assembly leaders to account. Citizens should be encouraged to exercise their rights to demand for and access information from authorities on the state of affairs in their communities  at all times.
  • Advocacy and empowerment activities for the masses as well as local governance authorities must continue with a greater momentum.
  • While the older generation is empowered to know their rights, accept and engage in local governance, the building and equipping of the younger generation should not be left out. Teachers should be trained to teach basic local governance concepts, human rights, gender, youth and development and other related fields to prepare the youth for local governance.
  • Members of the communities should be involved decision-making at all levels. Excluding citizens from decision-making at any point denies them of their rights and creates unequal power relationship. It also introduces a sense of conflict, distrust and suspicion.
  • A unique framework and module to guide and enable citizens effective participate in all local governance processes should be established from the national level.
  • Members of the communities should be involved decision-making at all levels.The mobilisation and utilisation process of revenues and other community resources should be done in collaboration with the citizens and in an equitable manner for the general benefit of all citizens within the community.
  • Above all, local governance authorities must observe transparency and accountability in all their governance initiatives.
  • The participatory budget system whereby community members are allowed to identify spending priorities and select budget delegates should be tightened in countries.
  • The institution of power, election of representatives and appointment of local governance authorities must be transparent to enable all stakeholders freely come together to formulate strategies, select and implement developmental plans.

All the above can be achieved with the help of Civil Societies and other relevant institutions and stakeholders. However, it should be noted that citizens are gradually opening up and engaging in local governance processes in Africa thanks to the work of civil societies, the media and other actors. This efforts to educate and encourage the citizenry to break barriers and play their role in the governance process should be continuous.

 

Impact Africa Summit and the SDGs Achievement Process in Ghana

Stakeholders interested in the SDGs will be meeting at the Tang Palace Hotel in Accra for the 2nd edition of the impact Africa Summit on November 30, 2017. The maiden edition of the summit which was held on July 7, 2016 at the same venue brought together key government officials, senior diplomats, academia, top local and international business executives, civil society and the media who shared their ideas on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Ghana.

Impact Africa summit 2017 will be hosted by the International Perspective for Policy & Governance (IPPG) in partnership with the UNDP, the Sustainable Development Goals Centre for Africa and the Oxford Business Group.

The event will bring together senior government officials, senior diplomates, heads of local and international business/companies, NGO’s and CSOs, foreign investors and media and young diplomates of Ghana: who will engage and interact through panel discussions, presentations, networking, investment opportunities and brand awareness. Participants will also be updated on the state of SDGs in Ghana and Ghana’s commitment to achieving the goals.

It is expected that the 2017 Impact Africa Summit in Ghana would among others, explore meaningful avenues, opportunities and strategies for partnerships to well position Ghana and the continent in the realization of the SDGs. The summit will also spearhead discussions on the possibilities and options in directing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) as a source of financing the SDGs in Ghana as well as the prospects of Goal 3 for the country’s health sector.

Additionally, five distinguished personalities will be honored and celebrated for their contributions to the development agenda of the country and the continent in education, entrepreneurship, health and rising star categories.

  African Youth Rally for the Goals – Youth SDGs Summit

Indeed if the Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved in Africa, everyone has to be engaged. The success rate of the SDGs can be determined by the level of strong commitment to partnership, cooperation and knowledge sharing as embedded in goal 17.

Many institutions, individuals and other stake holders in Africa and the World at large are working to ensure that no one is left behind in the journey to the 2030 agenda.

Young people between the ages 18 and 35 years from various African countries who are interested in the SDGs convened at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC) to discuss sustainable development and emerging innovations on the African continent for the achievement of the SDGs.

Young people being the backbone of every society have an eminent role to play in the implementation process of the SDGs in Africa. As rightly stipulated by one of UN’s former Secretary General, Kofi Anan “a community that cuts off itself from youth severes its lifeline,’’ it is obvious that young people cannot be left out of the SDGs implementation course in the continent.

So it is increasingly necessary for awareness and acceptance of the need to mobilise the creativity, vision and unique perspective of young people to attain the sustainable development goals agenda in Africa.

In this light therefore, the Youth Advocate Ghana and the AKO Foundation in collaboration with the UNDP, UNICEF Christian AID, OXFAM, UNPA and other institutions and stake holders organised the first ever African Youth SDGs Summit dubbed “Youth as Drivers of Sustainable Development’’ in Accra – Ghana to elevate African youth voices and create a community of purpose for co-generation of ideas and awareness on the SDGs.

The summit which took place on November 1 and 2, 2017 identified and showcased Youth Led and Resourced Initiatives (Innovations) in the implementation of the 2030 and 2063 development agendas.

The maiden event led to the creation of a community of practice where African Youth will continually share, discuss and exchange ideas on their own initiatives and foster knowledge sharing and peer mentoring for sustainable development in Africa.

The youngsters further committed to co-generate ideas and share innovative solutions towards achieving Agenda 2030 and the African Unions 2063 development plan for Africa.

The African Youth SDGs Summit further exposed participants to networking opportunities with field leaders, policy makers, expert advisers and discussions on the way forward to supporting innovative solutions geared towards the SDGs and achievement of sustainable development in Africa.

African Youth SDGs Summit forum also solicited a push for advocacy for African Governments to invest and fund youth development initiatives.

 

 

 

 

 

Mobile Devices; Another Quick Route to the 2030 Agenda.

Ghana re-affirmed the indispensable role of mobile phones and other mobile devices in the achievement of SDGs in the country.

As part of the activities to commemoration the 72nd anniversary of the United Nations known as the UN Day, Ghana held a High Level Conference to amongst other things discuss the eminent role of mobile devices in the socio-economic development of the country and the attainment of the SDGs agenda in Ghana.

The round table conference which took place on October 23, 2017 in partnership  with the Department for International Development, Ghana Chamber of Communication, Ministry of communication and the UNDP underscored that digital advancement can spur economic inclusion in Ghana.

According to participants, considering the number of people who have access to mobile phones, mobile platforms have the propensity to enhance opportunities that support the SDGs processes in a range of areas including agriculture, gender equality, financial service access, innovation and entrepreneurship. Participants noted.

It was further indicated that the mobile industry in Ghana has connected 67 per cent of the population; nearly half of the population has mobile internet access thereby making Ghana the second country in West Africa with a high level internet penetration.

More so, mobile phones have connected eight million individuals to financial services, exposed farmers to support systems and provided access to health information, clean energy and more in Ghana.

It was in line with this that the UNDP Ghana Country Director, Dominic Sam iterated that“Few other technologies have grown so fast and have had so much to offer in terms of new ways of delivering services, stimulating businesses, enabling citizens to have their voices heard and countries to leapfrog development models to achieve their goals. UNDP is very pleased to partner with the GSMA and UK Government in this dialogue to design solutions and explore opportunities to do this faster and more sustainably in Ghana.”

In this light therefore, the vital role mobile technology can play in fostering the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda in Ghana cannot be overemphasised.

At the end of the conference, participants signed a communiqué committing to maximise opportunities for mobile to support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the country.

 

Pre-colonial, Colonial and Post-colonial History of Cameroon; A Birds-eye View

Cameroon termed Africa in miniature is a bilingual country (French and English) located in Central-West Africa. It is bound by Equatorial Guinea to the southwest, Gabon to the south, Congo to the southeast, the Central African Republic to the east, Chad to the northeast, Nigeria to the northwest and the Gulf of Guinea to the west.

Some of the main primary products of Cameroon include but no limited to: Bauxite, Cocoa, Coffee, Cotton, Rubber, Gold, Iron Ore, Oil and Natural Gas, Timber, Tin, Palm Oil, Plantain, Banana, Cassava, Groundnut, Sorghum, Millet, Maize, Potatoes, Yams, livestock etc. Major Industries are: Agriculture, Aluminium Smelting, Beverages, Food Processing, Forestry, Mining, Shoes, Textile and Tourism. Cameroons main exports products are Aluminium, Cocoa, Coffee, Banana, Cotton, Petroleum, Rubber and Timber etc.

Cameroon has a dynamic and interesting history with a lot of confusing appellations, dates, events and developments. May 20th is one of such days that is confused with the day the territory gained independence. This work will also expose readers to the many appellations affiliated to present day Cameroon. May 20 is the National day of Cameroon and not the day the two Cameroons (former French and British Cameroons also referred to as East and West Cameroon respectively) gained independence. For a better understanding of the rationale behind the establishment of the 20th May national day, it is imperative to retrospect on the events that culminated into the independence and reunification of East and West Cameroon – French and English Cameroon.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive Cameroon in the 15th century. Early European presence in Cameroon was primarily devoted to trade and the acquisition of slaves. On July 5, 1884, Cameroon became a German colony thanks to the efforts of Dr. Gustav Nachtigal a special envoy from the German chancellor – Otto Von Bismark. The territory became known as Kamerun.

The German annexation of Cameroon greatly disappointed the British colonial office that had considered Cameroon suitable and strategic for British annexation but failed to occupy the territory before the Germans. The First World War, presented Great Britain with the perfect opportunity to fight for what the country longed to possess. Thus Britain allied with France and Belgium to attack German colonies in Africa with Cameroon not an exception. In August 1914 the allied powers principally Britain and France attacked the German colonial administration in Cameroon and in February 1916 the Germans were ousted from Cameroon.

Following the ousting of the Germans from Cameroon, Britain and France decided to administer the country collectively in what was known as the condominium. Unfortunately, the condominium could not last due to the differences in language and British and French administrative and colonial policies.

With the failure of the condominium, Cameroon was partitioned between Britain and France in 1916 by the British Secretary for Colonies, Alfred MILNER and the French Minister for Colonies and Navy, Henri SIMON. In 1917, the partition was confirmed in an agreement known as the Milner-Simon agreement. The French took four-fifth of the territory and the British one-fifth representing 80% and 20% of the total territory respectively. The partition led to frontier restrictions that made life difficult for a people that had lived together for long. The British integrated its own share of the territory to Nigeria for administrative convenience.

The partition of Cameroon was endorsed by the League of Nations in 1919. Cameroon became a mandate B territory under the League of Nations. After the Second World War, Cameroon’s political status changed in 1946 from a mandate to a trust territory of the United Nations with the collapse of the League of Nations.

The struggle for independence in British and French Cameroons took place in different trends. In French Cameroon, the struggle was largely spearheaded by the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC). However, other groups such as trade unions, traditional societies (Nkumze and Ngondo) also contributed to the decolonisation of French Cameroon. On October 19, 1958, the French administration acknowledged the right of the United Nations trust territory (Cameroon) to choose independence. On December 15, 1958 the United Nations’ General Assembly took note of the French government’s declaration according to which French Cameroon gained independence on January 1, 1960 as the Republic of Cameroon with Ahmadu Ahidjo as president.

The British Cameroon sphere of German Cameroon was further divided into Northern and Southern Cameroons. The former was administered as an integral part of the Northern Region of Nigeria while the latter administered as an integral part of the Eastern Region of Nigeria until 1954 when it became a quasi-autonomous Region of Nigeria. It was later transformed into a full region of the Federation of Nigeria in 1959. Hence, in political and administrative terms, the two British sectors and the French sphere had little or nothing in common with each other.

Prior to 1959, a number of political options were already being discussed in British Cameroon. Integration proposed that Northern and Southern Cameroons, either singly or together, be merged permanently into autonomous regions or states of the Federation of Nigeria. Secession proposed that Northern and Southern Cameroons sever links with Nigeria and develop together as an independent state comprising of either two provinces or as a single unit. There was also the option termed reunification, which suggested British Cameroons reunites with French Cameroon at independence.

In late 1959, the UN invited Northern and Southern Cameroonians to choose between Nigeria and Cameroun, i.e. between Integration and Reunification in a plebiscite held on February 11, 1961. A majority of British Cameroonian elites received this with a pinch of salt as they had expected a third option which is the territory having the choice to be granted independence as a separate entity.  As a result, a majority of British Northern Cameroonians opted for Nigeria and became the Sardauna Province of Northern Nigeria.

The Southern Cameroonians preferred reunification with the Republic of Cameroon. Before the reunification of British Southern Cameroon with the Republic of Cameroon took place, British Southern Cameroonian politicians met in a conference in Bamenda in June 1961 to draft a constitution representing the wish of their people in the “will be” Federal Republic of Cameroon. The constitution drafted during the Bamenda conference was presented at a conference held in Founbam from the 17 to 21st of July 1961. The Foumban conference was organised to finalised discussions on the constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon.

The constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon established in Foumban was legally endorsed at a conference known as the Yaoundé tripartite conference held on the 1st and 2nd of August 1961. On the 1st of October, 1961, Southern Cameroons gained independence by reunifying with the Republic of Cameroon. The marriage between the Republic of Cameroon and former British Southern Cameroon gave birth to the Federal Republic of Cameroon. Both camps maintained their socio-economic institutions such as education, law, industries etc and administrative systems derived from colonial legacies.

After close to a decade of reunification, President Ahmadou Ahidjo appealed to the nation for support to establish a United Republic, “one and indivisible,” with one Government and one Assembly. The appeal of the President was successful and in 1972, a new constitution was drafted to abolish the federal system. The constitutional amendments were put to a popular referendum conducted to get the nations opinion on the creation of a United Republic of Cameroon. West and East Cameroonians voted in favour of the creation of the United Republic of Cameroon.

On the 20th of May, 1972, the referendum was approved. Hence, the birth of the Cameroon 20th May national day. Former East and West Cameroons became known as the United Republic of Cameroon. In 1984, the constitution was revised and the country transformed from the United Republic of Cameroon to the Republic of Cameroon. The political changes gradually led to the abolition of many institutions, administrative systems and values of the English speaking Cameroonians in favour of French Cameroonians given that the latter marks a majority of the population.

Considering the trend of events in Cameroon after the creation of the unitary state and subsequent developments, one would be tempted to find out if the opinions of former French and British Cameroons concerning the creation of a unitary state were tested separately or collectively. If collectively, wasn’t it possible that the majority former French Cameroonians influence the results of the referendum and that the political exercises might not have reflected the true standpoint of former British Southern Cameroonians?