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Vision for Africa - 2010-03-18

Thursday, 2010, March 18
Daily Nation
Nation Team

Posted Thursday, March 18 2010 at 22:30

Africa’s economic future and the challenge of uniting people and nations drew eminent politicians and scholars into a historic public debate in Nairobi on Thursday.

They examined the role of a free Press in Africa, debated the path to regional integration and spoke out on the continent’s quality of leadership as the curtain rose on the Nation Media Group’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

A sharp warning was sounded against the dangers of foreign aid by former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, who came out strongly against a proposed free trade agreement between Europe and Africa — the Economic Partnership Agreement — which he described as “another form of the Berlin agreement”.

Birthday festivities

The round table of eminent persons set the stage for the Pan Africa Media Conference, the centre-piece of the Nation’s birthday festivities, expected to last to the end of this month. The two-day conference, which is being attended by nearly 1,000 delegates from all over the world, was opened by President Kibaki.

Among the dignitaries were Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Mr Mkapa, former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai. They had all been received by the Mkapa, former Mozambique President Joachim Chissano, and Nobel laureate Wangari Maathai.

They had all been received by His Highness the Aga Khan, founder of the Nation Media Group and spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, who defined the essence of responsible media and warned against covering mediocre journalism under the cloak of partisan agenda.

The Aga Khan announced plans to establish a graduate school of media and communications at the Aga Khan University and, later, a faculty of Arts and Sciences to be based in Arusha, Tanzania. President Kibaki, in his opening address, said the government had upheld media freedom for the past seven years and cited the increasing number of media outlets in the country.

“The growth of the media is a good positive indicator for our nation. We must, however, continually challenge industry players on the use and application of media freedom they currently enjoy,” he said. “The media must rise up from the current understanding of media freedom and embrace the concept of responsible journalism.”

Leading newspaper

In a robust debate captured live on television, Mr Mkapa, himself a former journalist, described the Nation as a leading regional newspaper adding that the paper is balanced and provokes thought.

In Tanzania, he said, politicians, the media and civil society had agreed on common vision, purpose and need for unity out of diversity of the country. Prof Maathai said a vibrant media exposes ills in society and holds leaders accountable.

She recalled that it was after the Nation exposed the grabbing of land at Karura Forest that the country’s leadership noted the menace. President Kagame received accolades for announcing that he has been holding monthly press briefings for the last four years.

“It has continued up to this day and will continue. We are not too young for that in our own experience,” he said. In Kenya, Mr Odinga said the government spokesman holds weekly press briefings.

The PM also said he usually holds regular discussions with the media in his office for them to raise issues. Mr Mkapa said while he was President he had a reputation of not talking to local media.

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