Sub-Saharan Africa regional news editor, SciDev.Net
On Monday, and for the following five days, African journalists will converge in Kenya’s Nakuru town, situated in the bewitchingly scenic Rift Valley.
They will be attending the Africa Science Journalists Conference (ASJC). Among others, they will seek to delve deep into science news reporting, looking at various interesting issues such as transforming communities through digital technology, Africa’s fight to achieve its full agricultural productivity potential and intriguing debates like: ‘Why we do not need more science reporters’.
But what is the significance of this gathering and similar conferences elsewhere in Africa?
To me, the conference is one of the many noble efforts by journalists and journalists’ networks in the continent to inspire and mainstream science journalism. They aim for science reporting to become one of the integral components for Africa’s socio-economic transformation and democratisation.
The meeting, like many other similar meetings, will be held against the backdrop of a continent under political transition and the role of science journalism in the emerging socio-economic and political dispensations cannot be gainsaid.
In the mid-1980s, democratic theory and politics in Africa entered a new phase and a fresh wave of struggles for democratisation spread across the continent. It elicited vibrant debates on the processes, prospects, and problems of Africa’s democratic projects.
Many countries introduced political reforms and became somewhat democratic or were in the process of becoming so. Literature on African democracy exploded and the media has been awash with news about the changing political circumstances, but there has been very little on the scientific tools needed to transform the socio-political changes into tangible economic gains for the benefit of the majority of Africans.
Largely, there has been a lack of simplified scientific information for making informed choices. But science journalism seems to be gaining more currency. Other upcoming science journalism meetings are scheduled: 19–20 September will see ‘Making Scientific Information more accessible for Africa’s development’, taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the first Pan-African Science Journalists Conference is planned for the end of the year.
The ASJC, organised by Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture seems promising, and we will keep you posted on the proceedings through incisive blog posts from our esteemed writers. Watch this space.
This blog post is part of our Africa Science Journalists Conference 2012 blog, which takes place 20-23 August in Nakuru, Kenya. To read news and analysis on science journalism please visit our website.