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December 22, 2023

REPORT: Africa-China Journalists Forum & Photo Exhibition, 21 November 2023

The Wits Africa-China Reporting Project (the Project or ACRP) held its annual Africa-China Journalists Forum & Photo Exhibition on 21 November 2023, at the Humanities Graduate Centre Seminar Room & Atrium, South West Engineering Building, University of the Witwatersrand, Braamfontein East Campus, Johannesburg.

The Africa-China Journalists Forum is the annual gathering of journalists and researchers discussing their Africa-China investigations and reports from the field, from facilitation and capacity building provided by the Project. The Forum presented discussions on the role of the media for local-global representations of the Global South community; South Africa-China relations: Local engagements, impacts and developments in society; Africa's responses to China's global engagements; Africa's responses to the US-China relations; Africa's responses to the climate crisis and climate change; Impacts of the just transition in local community groups and women; Digital innovations from Chinese and US investors in Africa; Reports on the African media landscape looking at West, East, North and Southern Africa; China in East Africa; Artificial Intelligence (AI) Geopolitics in Media and Practice; and Africa-China visual representations in media and society.

This year's ACRP Journalists Forum programme also showcased the ACRP Photo Exhibition at the Humanities Graduate Centre Atrium hall. The Photo Exhibition brought a collection of winning images from across Africa that best encapsulate applicants’ interpretation of “Africa–China” relations from a ground level, people-to people engagement perspective. First, Second and Third place winners to the Photo Exhibition submissions were also announced. A panel discussion assessing the impact of visual representations of Africa-China relations on the media and society was also held.

The Africa-China Reporting Project has since its establishment in 2009, aimed to improve the quality of reporting on African and Africa-China relations by providing facilitation and capacity building for journalists and researchers. This is accorded through the awarding of reporting grants, facilitating skills training workshops, reporting resources and other opportunities to journalists and researchers. The ACRP, at its main objective, focuses support amplifying Africa’s perspectives to enhance its development.

PROGRAMME: Africa-China Journalists Forum & Photo Exhibition

SESSION 1: China in Africa - Ground level perspectives, impacts of media's local to global engagements

Moderator: Dr Bob Wekesa

The Africa-China Journalists Forum received Welcome and Opening remarks from Professor Mucha Musemwa, Dean of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Professor Musemwa reflected on the dynamism of the professionals attending the Forum, stating that "today we are not just convening as members of the journalistic fraternity, but we are building bridges with researchers and engaging in a thoughtful exchange of ideas right here at Wits, all thanks to the Africa-China Reporting Project". He added on the relevance of the venue of the Humanities Graduate Centre as an ideal backdrop of discussions that delve deeper into the intricate tapestry of Africa-China relations.

"Here at Wits, we spend our time with postgraduate students, navigating the local, global misrepresentations, or just representations of the global South community. Our mission is very clear, to provide an intellectually enriching, professionally empowering and socially supportive environment for our students. I assure you, your topics today align with the issues we ponder in this very space."

The Dean emphasized the importance of the safety, security and well-being of journalists in their role in society. "No journalist should ever face harm for uncovering socio-political or environmental injustices, disagreements with their reporting should be settled in the arena of ideas, just like the one we find ourselves in today".

Professor Musemwa reflected on the conversation worth having of journalists caught in the crossfire of wars and the use of power to stifle voices, particularly to the prevailing plight of journalists and populations caught in the conflict between Israel and Gaza.

The following remarks were received from Consul General of China South Africa, Pan Qingjiang, on South Africa-China Relations: Local Engagements, Impacts and Developments in Society & Access of Local Media. Consul Qingjiang reflected on the importance of this year, marking the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, and with the relations entering a "golden era" of more opportunities as well as more responsibilities. Adding that "China-South Africa friendship has defied the obstacles of mountains and oceans".

The Consul reflected on the role of South Africa, having maintained strategic mutual trust with China, saying that the two countries "give each other firm support on issues involving our respective core interests and major concerns, and maintain coordination on major international and regional issues".

South Africa was the first African country to sign the Belt and Road cooperation document with China, and has been China's biggest trading partner in Africa over the past 14 years, and one of the African countries with the largest stock of Chinese investment.

The Consulate reflected on all the community engagements undertaken by the Consulate General office within communities in Gauteng and in the Free State province. The Consulate added that looking ahead, China would continue in its work with South Africa and take the bilateral relations to a new level. "We will make even greater progress in the building of a China-Africa community with a shared future in the new era as well as the building of a community with a shared future for mankind" he said.

Consul Qingjian recognised the important role of the media and academia, saying "You are playing a crucial role in fostering and enhancing this relationship. We value and appreciate your hard work in both coverage and research about China and China-South Africa-China-Africa relations. We are willing to maintain close connection and interaction with you all and to help facilitate your access to relevant information and ideas".

In the two active steps that the Consulate General is taking to empower journalists in their coverage, the Consulate General made a commitment to creating opportunities for journalists to engage with stakeholders directly.

The full speech by Consul Qingjiang is available here. The Consul's remarks were also published on the Consulate General's website here and in mandarin at 潘庆江总领事出席2023年中非记者论坛暨图片展.

The first session further received remarks from Bongiwe Tutu, Project Coordinator to the Wits Africa-China Reporting Project, who reflected on the Importance of Capacity Building in Africa's Media Space. In her presentation, Tutu reflected on the growth of the African continent, which is becoming more robust within its engagements within the global economy. This is while numerous reports in the media are preempting Africa is the future, more specifically how the continent will be at the centre of the world’s urban future.  Projections hold that by 2050 Africa’s population of 1.4 billion will have doubled, noting further the youth bulge that will be seen vastly in the continent (World Bank, 2018). 

Tutu held that "as the future of the world is African, this calls for a conscientious adoption of Africa’s agency in its developmental objectives within the global economy". Noting that some critics acknowledge the opportunities which are presented by Africa's boom, she also noted how others hold concerns that Africa’s boom will be burdensome and mounting to its existing challenges of poverty, unemployment, governance issues, violent conflict and crimes, outdated infrastructure and socio-economic systems. "This requires and intentional approach to steer mechanisms supporting the youth, women and vulnerable groups in the continent", she said. Adding that the media plays a crucial role in identifying the areas for extensive support and monitoring, through groundbreaking investigations shedding light on impacts community by community, enhancing its voices, and driving Africa’s growth and opportunities.

As journalism practice and societal expectations of journalists have evolved over the years. It is evidenced that journalists are expected not only to inform, educate and entertain societies, but that journalists need to ensure that issues that adversely affect societal development are addressed effectively.

This places us at a time where it is most important to rethink and establish a new kind of “action-oriented shaping of our media space” (Tallert, 2023). Further of opportune, is how we can ensure African perspectives are upheld within media reports on Africa’s relations with the rest of the world, while ensuring the sustainability of media establishments, their re-skilling, re-training, and capacity building initiatives in order to be more effective. The presentation further reflected on the impactful role of the Africa-China Reporting Project, in supporting journalists and researchers in Africa and abroad, having reached 33 African countries and over 20 countries within the international community. The full presentation can be viewed in the video below.

The third presentation to the first session was by Justus Wanzala, Africa Editor of the China Dialogue Trust. Wanzala presented on China-Africa relations: Representations and Perspectives in the Media. In his presentation, Wanzala presented the role of the China Dialogue Trust, as a charity organisation and media outlet based in the United Kingdom (UK), giving opportunities and voices to academics, journalists, and other professionals in the global South, including the African continent, to report on local engagements and impacts within the communities. The China Dialogue Trust has editorial representatives regionally represented in East, West and Southern Africa, as well as an Asia editor and the Global editor.

In reflecting on the representations and perspectives of China-Africa relations in the media, Wanzala held that the China-Africa engagement is not new, presenting the East African example of the Tanzania-Zambia railway project as the first major project during the past president of Tanzania Julius Kambarage Nyerere's term 1964–1985 with Mao Zedong. That in this context, reporting on the engagements and exchanges began within media and scholarship, where representations and perspectives began to emerge.

Wanzala explained that at the time, China did not have media representation in Africa, where the likes of CGTN and Xinhua news platforms came in later stages, and the emerging media was Western media with leading establishments such as BBC, AFP, Reuters who had media representation in the African continent. Wanzala noted that this presented a lack of nuances when reporting on the relationship between Africa and China.

Wanzala further highlighted the areas which China Dialogue Trust reports, builds capacity and supports investigations on, including critical minerals, climate issues, development and infrastructure development, and the experiences and challenges which China Dialogue Trust has had in engaging with Chinese stakeholders and other partners, and media representations and perspectives, further presenting solutions and tools for journalists working on Africa-China relations, in how they can conduct their investigations for more nuanced reporting.

Watch the full video of session 1 below:

SESSION 2: Africa's Reponses to China's Global Engagements

Moderator: Dr Cobus van Staden

The second session received four presentations from journalists and researchers on responses to global engagements. Dr Gideon Chitanga, Researcher at the Centre for Africa China Studies at UJ, presented on Negotiating US-China Competition and Rivalry in Africa: Re-inserting African Agency into Africa-US-China Digital Diplomacy.

The second presentation was given by Xiang Chen, Foreign Languages and Literature, Peking University, China. Chen presented on US and Chinese Tobacco Companies in Zimbabwe: Socio-economic impact and their corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies.

Further remarks were presented by Dianah Chiyangwa, Freelance journalist and photographer. Chiyangwa presented on Women exclusion in coal economy: Just Transition and Climate Change in South Africa.

The final presentation to session 2 was given by Yuke Zhao, Roselake Ventures, MSc Communication & Development, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). Zhao presented on Digital Innovations from the Below: How Chinese and American Investors Make a Difference to African Tech Entrepreneurs.

Watch the full video of session 2 below:

SESSION 3: Regional Study Reports: African Media Landscape & China in East Africa

Moderator: Khadija Patel

The third session of the conference consisted of reports assessing the media landscape in Africa's regions, as well as on China in East Africa. The first presentation was given by Sharon Kiburi, Multimedia journalist in Kenya and ACRP East Africa Regional Lead. Sharon presented the African Media Landscape: the case of East Africa.

The second presentation was given by Dianah Chiyangwa, journalist and photographer, Zimbabwe and ACRP Southern Africa Regional Lead. Dianah presented the African Media Landscape: the case of Southern Africa.

The presentation on the African Media Landscape: the case of North Africa was presented by Dr Mennatullah Hendawy, Assistant Professor, Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and ACRP North Africa Regional Lead.

The presentation on the African Media Landscape: the case of West Africa was given by Michelle Agoh, Broadcast journalist, Lagos Talks 91.3 FM and ACRP West Africa Regional Lead.

The final presentation to the third session was given by Dr Bob Wekesa, Acting Director, Wits African Centre for the Study of the United States (ACSUS). Dr Wekesa presented the findings in the new book: China's Footprint in East Africa: Pessimism versus Optimism.

The African Media Landscape Regional Study reports are accesssible at:

Watch the full video of session 3 below:

SESSION 4: Artificial Intelligence Geopolitics in Media and Practice

The fourth session received perspectives on the impacts of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in geopolitics, with some case studies of African reports, China and Russia.

The first presentation was given by Eric Olander, Editor in Chief, China Global South Project, who gave a reflection on Artificial Intelligence in practice.

The second reflection was given by Jean Le Roux, Research Associate for Sub-Sahara at Digital Forensic Research Lab at the Atlantic Council. Le Roux presented on Generative AI Augmented Disinformation.

Final reflections were presented by Geraud Neema, Francophone Editor at China Global South Project, who presented on AI Misinformation and Disinformation within the African context.

Watch the full video of session 4 below:

SESSION 5: Africa-China Visual Representations in Media and Society

Moderator: Leon Sadiki

The final session to the ACRP Journalists Forum presented the Africa-China Visual representations and their impact in media and society. The session comprised of the judges and panel of the Photo Exhibition submissions, experts from the photography media landscape, from the academia and scholarly lens of impacts of photos in the media, and from the architectural perspective on technicalities of photography.

The first presentation on Why We Should Take Images Seriously, was given by Dr Sali Oumarou, Scientific journalist, independent researcher and author of Online Visual Framing of Conflict Mediation in Africa, by the South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research.

The second presentation on Visualizing China-Africa, was given by Justin Hui, Architect and Photographer, documenting the rapid urbanisation across the African continent and publisher of New Territories book in Asia One Books.

The final remarks were received from Bongiwe Mchunu, Award winning photographer, and Picture Editor at Sunday World Newspaper, and Director and Founder of Sandlwana Media, speaking on the Experiences of photography from the media and journalistic landscape.

Watch the full video of session 5 below:

ACRP Africa-China Photo Exhibition

The Africa-China Journalists Forum, this year included the showcasing of winning images on Africa-China relations. The Forum moved to the Atrium hall where the selected winning images were hung and viewed by attendees, in the anticipation of the announcement of the Top 3 winning photographers.

The Top 3 winning photographers of the ACRP Africa-China Photo Exhibition 2023 are:

  • 1st Prize: Sandile Ndlovu, South Africa
  • 2nd Prize: Ihsaan Haffejee, South Africa
  • 3rd Prize: Sani Mohammed Maitkatanga, Nigeria

Congratulations to the Top 3 Winning Photographers!

From left to right:
Bongiwe Tutu (ACRP Project Coordinator), Justin Hui (ACRP Photo Exhibition Judge 2018, 2023), Bongiwe Mchunu (ACRP Photo Exhibition Judge 2023), Sandile Ndlovu (1st Prize Winner, ACRP Photo Exhibition 2023), Ihsaan Haffejee (2nd Prize Winner, ACRP Photo Exhibition 2023), Dr Sali Oumarou (ACRP Photo Exhibition Judge 2023)
Photo by: Thomas Lethoba

Within the Top 10 images, the below listed (in no particular order) photographers' submissions were recognised, and their images were included in the Photo Exhibition:

  • Otiato Opali, Kenya
  • Adebote Promise Mayowa, Nigeria
  • Justin Lee Haruyama, Zambia
  • Amadin Famous Ogbewe, Nigeria
  • Thuku Kariuki, Kenya
  • Fungai Machirori, Zimbabwe
  • Benedict Bernard Chiguvare, Nigeria

The full report of the Africa-China Photo Exhibition 2023 is available here.

ACRP in the African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC)

Ahead of the Forum, the Africa-China Reporting Project presented two sessions on 20 November 2023 within the 19th annual African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC), the session on Amplifying African voices in climate change from 10:40am - 11:40am, and on Improving China literacy: A Workshop for African journalists from 15:20 - 16:20. The AIJC is the biggest gathering of working journalists on the continent, and will be taking place at the Wits Science Stadium, West Campus, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The full AIJC programme is available here.

GALLERY: ACRP Journalists Forum & Photo Exhibition

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