An opportunity to travel overseas is often grabbed with glee with the prospects of meeting new people, discovering new lands and sampling different cuisines.
That is exactly what this writer felt when he was nominated by the Department of Information (KNA) to attend the 2018 seminar for managers of the international department of major media organizations from African countries in Beijing China.
Landing in Beijing capital airport is a tremendous sight to behold and gives an inkling of what to expect from this mega city of broad avenues and sky high buildings that dot the landscape of a city of about 26 million people.
The seminar packaged as ‘a learning and discovery forum’ seeks to enhance the traditional friendship and cooperation between China and the African media.
2018 will also usher in a new relation between China and Africa within the framework of Forum for China, Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which will be holding its summit in Beijing by September this year.
The forum will focus on pooling more resources and pushing forward the implementation of mega projects in Africa.
The hospitality of the Chinese people is legendary as they are humble, tolerant and friendly to foreigners notwithstanding the language and cultural barriers.
The difficult of trying to learn a few words of Chinese and adapting to the various Chinese cuisines is of concern to any foreigner in China, a country of about 1.4 billion people that is home to 56 different ethnic groups.
The Chinese government is alive to the media’s role in building the country’s ‘international soft power’ and busting anti-China stereotypes in Africa as the Asian giant seeks to open up to the rest of the world.
Tiananmen Square the world’s largest public square and the Imperial palace often called the ‘Forbidden city’ linked to the ancient dynasties of China are the marvels of Beijing and the Great Wall of China together often forms the first port of call for visitors.
The Great Wall of China which is a trademark in Chinese tourism is a defensive fortification in ancient China which goes across many provinces and cities with a length of 885.8 kilometers and was listed on world cultural heritage in December, 1987.
The 21 day media summit held in June-July was organized by the China International Publishing Group (CIPG) and sponsored by the Ministry of Commerce of China and attracted 28 participants from Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Lesotho, Nigeria, Ghana and the Gambia.
Officials from the CIPG briefed the participants about China’s development since its reform and open-door policy in 1978.
The media program was split between field trips and series of intensive lectures to help the journalists to understand and appreciate the history and the culture of the far eastern Asian nation.
The journalists spent one-week visiting factories, museums, media houses and tourism sites located in Hubei province which has a solid industrial foundation and richly endowed with agricultural resources and Beijing.
CIPG deputy president Mr. Wang Ganyi told the participants that the media collaboration will in the long run strengthen Sino-Africa relations and erase misunderstandings.
He said there is need for Africa and China media outlets to join hands to raise their voice in the world stage and capture the hearts and minds of global audience.
”The voice in the international community is monopolized by the Western media so there is need and urgency for us to come together and give a different view point” said Ganyi.
The official said the Western world is unable to understand the development challenges facing Africa and China due to lopsided and hostile media reportage and rooted for fair, accurate and objective coverage.
Ganyi said the ‘emergence of the new media has altered the traditional media landscape of TV, Newspapers and Radio’ and pointed out that there was need to diversify into the multimedia such as graphics, audio, video and mobile phone text messages to remain relevant in the face of emerging digital technologies.
He said the Chinese media was keeping tap with the new developments in the global media industry and assured African countries that they can count on China to continuously train the manpower needed to overcome the challenges posed by the new media.
Prof. Li Anshan director center for African studies at Peking University said it is also hoped the collaboration will strengthen the ‘Belt and Road initiative’, China’s flagship economic development blueprint.
The belt and road initiative is an economic framework developed to increase connectivity between China, Asia, Europe and Africa based on the ancient Silk Road and maritime routes.
Prof. Anshan said the field trips are aimed at exposing the visiting journalists to appreciate the ‘imbalance in development’ in China and what the Chinese government is doing to improve the living conditions for those in the vast countryside.
The trips have also exposed the African journalists to the fast mode of development of China such as technology and infrastructure.
The don said the world’s most populous nation is grappling with imbalance in development between the prosperous coastal China and the least developed hinterland.
He said China’s recent enhancement in media cooperation with African countries has given African media professionals’ chances to see how China has developed over the decades.
‘The cultural and people-to-people exchanges have always been important to China and Africa relationship’ he said.
China, a country of great diversity has a long history of civilization and is making deliberate efforts to open up to the rest of the world.
Prof. Lishan said the real picture of China is that of a country still developing and fighting to lift a sizeable number of its population out of abject poverty.
He said China seeks more coverage of Sino-Africa win-win economic cooperation as it continues to expand and deepen its presence in Africa.
He said as China courts Africa and warms its way into the hearts of its people, the media collaboration is set to deepen relationship between China and African countries.
China is also working hard to change western countries news and narrative in Africa and China by for example launching the 24 hour news television channel the China Global Television Network (CGTN) which has its African headquarters in Nairobi.
China has great footprint in Africa and in Kenya a series of major projects at the core of belt and road initiative including railways, highways and ports have been on the fast track of implementation by the Chinese in Kenya.
By Hussein Abdullahi