The Wits China-Africa Projects’ journalists roundtable on 6 November was a vibrant success. The roundtable brought together more than 60 journalists, experts and scholars from Africa, Asia, and Europe to illuminate on the many facets of the China-Africa relationship.
Brigitte Read, co-ordinator of the project, opened the roundtable with a short speech highlighting the projects history. Over 50 grants have been given to journalists from China and Africa in the last four years to report on an aspect of the China-Africa relationship, she said. She also said this was the 5th consecutive year the project was sponsoring Chinese journalists to attend the annual Power Reporting Conference organised by the Journalism Department at the University of the Witwatersrand.
The first session featured Lucy Corkin from Rand Merchant Bank, whose presentation was about economic engagements and financial flows between China and Africa. She was followed by Prof Garth Shelton of the Wits International Relations Department who spelled out the key foreign policy principles journalists should know, particularly emphasising a focus on smart power – the power of ideas – and not just hard and soft power. Prof Shelton was followed by Dr Daouda Cisse of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University who spoke of the evolution of Chinese business strategies in Africa from investments in natural resources and infrastructure to services.
Dr Ross Anthony, the interim director at the Centre for Chinese Studies, opened the second session, which also had Bob Wekesa, a research associate with the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project, and Cobus van Staden of the Wits Media Studies Department. Bob Wekesa explained some aspects of China’s media diplomacy in Africa, while Cobus van Staden, one half of the team behind the China Africa Project, gave a presentation on their very popular podcast and how they manage their Facebook page.
John Bailey of South Africa’s etv who also reports from China, the Financial Time’s Tom Burgis and Kevin Bloom comprised the next session, which focussed on reporting strategies. The final session was grant recipients sharing their reporting experiences; Jenni Marsh, who works with Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Xiaochen Chen of China Business News, John Grobler, a Namibian freelancing investigative journalist, and Hongxiang Huang of China House, an NGO in Nairobi.
The indefatigable Winslow Robertson put together a Storify with tweets from the roundtable.
Below is a selection of photos from the conference; there is also an album on our Facebook page.