REPORT: Media Workshop on Reporting Africa-China Engagements – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 5-7 Sep. 2017

Participating African and Chinese journalists during a tour of the Huajian factory in the Eastern Industrial Zone in Addis Ababa during field visits on 5 September at the Media Workshop on Reporting Africa-China Engagements: Agriculture Developments, Climate Change, Industrialization, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and Agenda 2063, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 5-7 September 2017.

The Project in partnership with Oxfam International’s Africa-China Dialogue Platform held a workshop on Reporting Africa-China Engagements: Agriculture, Climate Change, Industrialization, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063 for African and Chinese journalists in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 5-7 September 2017. The Workshop exposed over 20 journalists to practical skills training, informative presentations and talks from leading figures at e.g. the African Union, China’s Mission to the African Union, and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, and also included tours on 5 September in and around Addis Ababa notably to the Eastern Industrial Zone (Huajian factory), the new Addis light railway and the African Union.

Opening ceremony and welcoming remarks

The opening ceremony of the Workshop on 6 September was chaired by Oxfam International’s Africa-China Dialogue Platform Programme Manager, Gedion Jalata and featured remarks from Apollos Nwafor, Oxfam International’s Pan Africa Director, Barry van Wyk, Africa-China Reporting Project Coordinator, and Chen Xufeng, Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Mission to the African Union.


Gedion Jalata spoke on the relevance of the Workshop in shaping the objectives of African developmental frameworks and policies, including FOCAC, Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Oxfam International’s Pan Africa Director, Apollos Nwafor emphasised the importance of an Africa-China dialogue platform as a space that strengthens partnerships that support development efforts between Africa and China in policy and practice. “We are promoting the voices of citizens in shaping policy and practice to ensure that this relationship remains strengthened and that people are able to see the development opportunities and results that this partnership offers”, said Nwafor.

Addressing the journalists, Nwafor noted, “We consider your work as very critical and objective reporting as something that will help create awareness and something that will ensure we continue to generate knowledge that can improve policy, practice and the eradication of poverty across the continent”.  He said this was important to evaluate ourselves and analyse how we can do better to achieve FOCAC and Agenda 2030.

Africa-China Reporting Project Project Coordinator Barry van Wyk outlined the scope and modus operandi of the Africa-China Reporting Project, and invited the journalists to learn its objectives and successes and to take it upon themselves to seize all available opportunities. He said the Africa-China Reporting Project supports and provides practical skills and training to journalists for on the ground reporting on Africa and China.

Further welcoming remarks were received from Chen Xufeng, Charge d’Affaires of the Chinese Mission to the African Union. He referred to the importance of the Africa-China partnership as China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, main investor and engineering contractor in the past decade. He relayed the opportunities in development that are ahead between Africa and China, and confirmed that “China is ready to help Africa resolve three fundamental issues of employment, food and health by developing self-sustainable system of industrialisation, food security, and disease prevention and control systems”.

According to Chen Xufeng, China has provided vocational training opportunities to over 100,000 African people and offered nearly 20,000 government scholarships for African countries. Along with this, there have been mega projects that have been completed; railways; construction of special economic zones and industrial parks; and projects within the FOCAC framework. He confirmed that more than 600 Chinese projects have been completed, are underway or have been signed to be implemented for the African continent.

“We need to do more to share the true story of Africa-China cooperation with African people and the rest of the world,” said Chen Xufeng, referring to the misunderstandings, biased and negative reports that still persist over Africa-China engagements. “China and its engagement in Africa is portrayed in a negative way, including labeling of the so-called ‘Chinese threat’ or ‘neocolonialism’. In order to improve Chinese and African reporting, we should strengthen cooperation and communication between media of both sides”.

Session 1: The role of the media and journalists in Africa-China partnerships: Opportunities and challenges

Session 1 was chaired by Barry van Wyk and featured presentions by Dr Bob Wekesa, Postdoctoral Fellow of the Africa-China Reporting Project; Crystal Chow, Journalist specializing in South East Asia and the Environment and Agriculture; and Dr Yoon Jung Park, Convenor of the Chinese in Africa/Africans in China Research Network and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Dr Bob Wekesa spoke of the importance of partnerships between Africa and China, and what the fundamental elements of the word ‘partnership’ are.  “Does it mean that if we are partners, should we agree all the time or disagree sometimes?” he asked. Wekesa explained the importance of the concept of partnership and how its representation and implementation by Africans and Chinese should be aligned and fair.

Wekesa referred to the sources of reporting on Africa-China engagements and the risk of merely relying on Western reports and using them as a primary reference. Wekesa warned that this leads to contradictions and misunderstandings of Africa-China engagements.  He urged the African and Chinese participating journalists to research and report on everyday engagements, and not to rely solely on Western media to report on these issues.

“This is most crucial to the upcoming FOCAC conference and its action plan”, Wekesa emphasised, noting the importance of journalistic collaborations and analysis in reporting on this forum together with other frameworks which link to the Africa-China space, including the SDGs and Agenda 2063. “It is important that we have a double, or even a triple factor analysis,” he said.

Participant and past grant recipient of the Africa-China Reporting Project, Crystal Chow spoke on the reporting of agriculture and the environment and linkages and engagements between Africa and China.  She referred to her research and reporting on development issues between South East Asia and Africa, exploring her experiences as a Hong Kong journalist.

Chow said her interests on African developments have always been heightened, but she was limited in her coverage as she did not have the resources to travel and explore stories that affect the people on the ground, and that made her susceptible to the Western framing of Africa-China relations.

“For this reason I have been very grateful to the Africa-China Reporting Project for giving me the opportunity to visit Johannesburg last year and to work on my story on the illegal abalone trading in South Africa and its connections to the Chinese market, (See The ecological, industrial and drug war behind the abalone on your dinner table). Chow reflected on the reception of this report in Hong Kong and China, the methodology she applied to investigate the story, and the importance of reporting on Africa-China relations.

Dr Yoon Jung Park referred to the relationship between Africans and Chinese on the continent and the importance of HOW to report on these relations, or otherwise, how NOT to report on Africa-China relations. In her presentation Dr Park refered to a report by Andrew Malone from the Daily Mail, 18 July 2008. Malone begins the article describing a letter to the Times penned by Sir Francis Galton (cousin of Charles Darwin) on 5 June 1873 outlining a “daring method to tame and colonise the Dark Continent”.

“My proposal is to make the encouragement of Chinese settlements of Africa a part of our national policy, in the belief that the Chinese immigrants would not only maintain their position, but that they would multiply and their descendants supplant the inferior Negro race. I should expect that the African seaboard, now sparsely occupied by lazy, palavering savages, might in a few years be tenanted by industrious, order-loving Chinese, living either as a semidetached dependency of China, or else in perfect freedom under their own law,” wrote Galton.

Dr Park reflects on the sensationalist and inaccurate coverage that has characterised some Africa-China relations and the critical role of media and journalists in eradicating the negative under-researched narrative.

Session 2: Reporting Africa and China from the perspective of Agenda 2063, FOCAC and the SDGs

Session 2 was chaired by Dr Bob Wekesa and featured presentations by Dr Kassim M. Khamis, Strategic Planning of the African Union, and Dr Paul Mpuga, director of the Development Planning Section, of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s (UNECA) Macroeconomic Planning Division.


Dr Kassim M. Khamis discussed Agenda 2063 and its implementation on the African continent. He outlined the challenges andobjectives of the goals of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its linkages to Agenda 2063. Reflecting on the challenges that Africa faced around 1963, including colonialism and the Cold War among other historical conflicts, Khamis said that by the year 2013 most of these challenges were eliminated, and African leaders now have a good opportunity to dream of creating The Africa We Want in the future.

“Agenda 2063 is continuation of the Pan-African drive pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance. It was agreed upon in 2013 during the 50th Anniversary of the OAU; and it should be understood in that context,” said Dr Khamis.

Khamis further referenced the convergences and divergences between Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He noted that Agenda 2063 builds on past and existing national, continental and regional blueprints, and that it is people-centered.

Dr Paul Mpuga of UNECA spoke on the importance of reporting on Africa-China engagements from the perspective of Agenda 2030 and the SDGs to bring about investments and analyse performance. He discussed the role of China and what the global giant brings to the scene, analyzing what exists against what is missing. And lastly, he spoke on the role of journalists.

Session 3: Reporting Africa and China from the perspective of Agenda 2063, FOCAC and the SDGs

Session 3 was chaired by Dr Yoon Jung Park and featured presentations by James Murombedzi, Coordinator of UNECA’s African Climate Centre; Adama Coulibaly, Chief of Food Security, Agriculture and Land at UNECA; and Elias Ntungwe Ngalame, Editor at Head Eden Media Group, Yaounde, Cameroon.

James Murombedzi discussed the dangers and risks in investments from China to Africa on agriculture and climate change, the opportunities which exist for the partnership and media coverage as a tool to influence policy making on the continent.

According to case studies presented by Murombedzi, although Africa is abundant with arable land and is experiencing an increase in productivity, there are high risks of food insecurity. “Agricultural productivity in the continent is increasing; the challenge is that this productivity is not translating into food security,” he said. With the increase of agricultural produce the number of people living in hunger on the continent is also increasing, and is currently estimated at 259 million people.

“The current relationship by China to Africa is an exploitative relationship which needs to be changed going forward,” said Murombedzi, adding that the crucial role of the press in relating statistics and reporting on these issues is fundamental, and is a way of influencing policy towards supporting rather than expropriating land held small holder farmers, among other challenges seen in Africa’s agriculture.

UNECA’s Chief of Food Security, Agriculture and Land, Adama Coulibaly, discussed the risks to resource scarcity due to increased production, and emphasised the need to adopt value adding technology in the production chain in Africa to generate better returns on investments. He mentioned that a report from UNECA revealed that there is a gap in investments on agriculture in Africa that translates to low results. From 2005 to 2015 only US$5 billion was generated from investments on agriculture in Africa.

“US$5 billion is just not enough, it is not significant,” said Coulibaly, adding “We need more investment on agriculture to address the core challenge of productivity improvement and also value adding gaps that we have”.

Coulibaly continued that China needed to do a lot more for Africa, stating that China is not investing in the resources which are the most crucial investments of Africa, but instead is investing more in service and manufacturing on the continent. A UNECA report revealed that China is no different to Western countries, and Africa needs to merge political commitment with implementation of policies and frameworks.

Participant and past grant recipient of the Africa-China Reporting Project, Elias Ntungwe Ngalame analysed the case of Cameroon in terms of Chinese support on driving electricity and transport growth, as well as boosting farmers in rice production and fighting climate stress. Ngalame shared a methodology to be used in the investigation and reporting of these cases, and discussed critical issues lacking adequate financing in Cameroon.

Session 4: Reporting Africa-China industrialisation: The pros and cons based on case studies

Session 4 was chaired by Oxfam International’s Pan Africa Director, Apollos Nwafor, and featured presentations by UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador Helen Hai of the Made in Africa Initiative, and Temwani Mgunda, Editor at Rewrite Desk of Nation Publications Limited in Malawi.

Chinese investor in industrialisation and manufacturing and former General Manager for overseas investment for the Huajian company, Helen Hai discussed how Africa can become a leading industrial continent by taking a lesson from the path taken by China and by exploring the rise of China and the opportunity for Africa. Hai was involved in the successful Huajian factory in Addis’ Eastern Industrial Zone where over 3,500 Ethiopians are currently employed.

“Job creation is the key for poverty reduction,” said Hai. She added that a key aspect of the few successful African economies is that their governments played a facilitating role to capture the window of opportunities arising from the relocation of light manufacturing to jump-start their industrialisation and structural transformation.

Participant and past grant recipient of the Africa-China Reporting Project, Temwani Mgunda, Editor at Rewrite Desk, Nation Publications Limited, Malawi, discussed how Malawi can engaging China to revitalise Malawi’s aquaculture, one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in Malawi. He called for an expansion of fish farming industries that would explore opportunities and expand skills training and knowledge, ensure the affordability of fish and contribute to the development of the local communities of Malawi.

Session 5: Group discussions on reporting angles on topics within agriculture, climate change, industrialization, SDGs and Agenda 2063

During this session African and Chinese journalists broke into three groups to discuss issues relating to Africa-China engagements, and to develop reporting angles to enhance dialogue and policy framing. The three groups discussed the following topics:

  • Africa-China linkages in the agricultural sector and climate change: Case-based challenges and opportunities.
  • The pros and cons of reporting Africa-China industrialization based on cased studies
  • Reporting Africa and China from the perspective of Agenda 2063, FOCAC and SDGs


The Workshop also saw the launch of Oxfam’s Research Report on New Actors, New Models… New Outcomes?  African Countries Engagement Strategy with China and Other Development Partners in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063.

The Africa-China Reporting Project is delighted by the success of this Workshop and the direct engagement with the journalists. This was the beginning of partnerships, networking hubs and dialogues that can develop policy frameworks on Africa’s engagement with China and other development partners in achieving the SDGs, FOCAC, and Agenda 2063, with the media as a pivotal instrument in not only giving voice to communities and uncovering untold stories, but in informing the people and thereby influencing policy making for the development and prosperity of Africa.


Follow-up reporting

Subsequent to the Workshop the participating journalists have published several follow-up reports on the Workshop and important issues discussed there:


Bongiwe Tutu

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