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December 18, 2017

REPORT: Africa-China Reporting Workshop, 7-20 November 2017

The Africa-China Reporting Project's Africa-China Reporting Workshop took place in Johannesburg 7-20 November, and consisted of a training component (7-9 Nov.) and a fieldwork component (10-19 Nov.), culminating in the Africa-China Journalists Forum at Wits on 20 Nov. The Project selected five African and five Chinese journalists to participate in workshop in five teams of two, as one of the objectives was to allow African and Chinese journalists to work together for better results in Africa-China reporting while being mentored by professional and experienced South African journalists.

Participants in the workshop, from left to right: Gillian Yau (Hong Kong), Li Xiaomeng (China), Zhang Qi (China), Project Coordinator Barry van Wyk, Project partner and China House founder Huang Hongxiang, Christopher Bendana (Uganda), Mbuli Tamfu Arison (Cameroon), Odinaka Anudu (Nigeria), Zheng Qingting (China), Fredrick PW Gaye (Liberia), Jiang Yifan (China), China House staff member Huang Ye, and Sharon Tshipa (Botswana).

The three-day training component commenced on 7 Nov. Each team was mentored throughout the workshop by professional and experienced journalists John Bailey (eNCA), Kevin Bloom (Daily Maverick), Phillip de Wet (The Mail & Guardian), Carien du Plessis (freelance) and Richard Poplack (Daily Maverick), who each also led a training seminar for the group during the training component. Other training sessions were led by Africa-China Reporting Project Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Bob Wekesa, Wits Caxton Professor of Journalism Anton Harber, China Africa Project hosts Cobus van Staden & Eric Olander, and China House founder Huang Hongxiang.

The training component also included several site visits in Johannesburg, notably an engagement with the Chinese Association of Gauteng and the Johannesburg Cyrildene Chinese community; this was the full programme for the training component:

These are the ten journalists who participated in the workshop and their fieldwork projects:

  • Odinaka Anudu (Nigeria): Chinese support for Africa's industrialisation, focused on the type and nature of skills transferred to South Africans by Gauteng-based Chinese vehicle manufacters and assemblers
  • Mbuli Tamfu Arison (Cameroon): Chinese survival in SA amidst Xenophobic attacks
  • Christopher Bendana (Uganda):  How Chinese low cost tractors such as Jinma & Foton are contributing to food security in SA
  • Fredrick P.W. Gaye (Liberia): Chinese language in African schools, universities and soft power
  • Jiang Yifan (China): How Chinese private and public organisations in the agricultural sector in SA perceive and deal with drought, food scarcity and price volatility
  • Li Xiaomeng (China): The first Chinese security company in SA
  • Sharon Tshipa (Botswana): Effects of Chinese enterprises’ CSR on SA businesses
  • Gillian Yau (Hong Kong): Confucius Institutes and Chinese soft power among young Africans
  • Zhang Qi (China): What impact does BEE have on Chinese companies in SA?
  • Zheng Qingting (China): What challenges do Chinese investors usually face in SA? Case study of Beijing Automotive Group’s assembly plant at Coega Industrial Development Zone in the Eastern Cape

Day 1

Project Coordinator Barry van Wyk introduced the Project and the objectives of the workshop, highlighting the importance of the African and Chinese journalists working together to achieve more in their investigations.


Dr Bob Wekesa provided contextual background to Africa-China relations and the role of the media.


Huang Hongxiang, China House founder and Project partner, discussed his Africa-China journey from journalist to researcher to practitioner, outlining the major issues and journalistic challenges from his several years as a Chinese journalist reporting from Africa.

During the lunch break the journalists met with Wits Professor Anton Harber for an informal discussion on the history and current context of South African media and politics.


Closing off the first day was a training session by Associate editor of The Mail & Guardian newspaper, Phillip de Wet, who provided practical guidance and tips for doing journalism in South Africa, including crucial sources for accessing information and data for investigations on the government and state officials.

Day 2

Freelance journalist on African politics Carien du Plessis started off the second day with reflections and tips from her years of reporting South African politics, referring to case studies for lessons and tools for success.


Next was a training session by Daily Maverick journalist and author Richard Poplack who discussed new skills and training journalists require in the current times, such as the ability to identify fraudulent financial transactions and to operate with leaks. Richard provided a contextual analysis of his experience in investigating governments, companies and private bodies.

John Bailey, eNCA senior journalist followed with a training session after lunch, discussing the soft skills journalists require in their investigations on Africa and China. John shared his experience from the field to provide journalists with pointers in their investigations, noting his interview with world leaders such as President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others.


Journalists then received training from China Africa Project experts and co-hosts of the weekly China in Africa Podcast, Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden, on the fundamentals of online journalism and other crucial points regarding online and digital media.

The journalists then visited the Jiangling Motors Company (JMC) in Roodepoort where Managing Director Dai Weiping took them on a tour of the facility while speaking about JMC’s performance in South Africa as a Chinese company. He also responded to journalists' questions on historical developments and current matters concerning the company such as employment, and managerial and business strategies that the company utilises.

Day 3

On the third and last day of the training component of the workshop, journalists received training from author, editor and journalist Kevin Bloom on the socio-political history and the geography of South Africa. Kevin spoke on threats to the media and addressed the question of whether journalists and whistle blowers are under threat.


The journalists then visited the Chinese Association of Gauteng in Johannesburg's old China Town in Newtown, where they met with the first generation of Chinese immigrants to South Africa who discussed their fascinating story growing up in apartheid South Africa and relations among Chinese and South African people. Addressing journalists was Erwin Pon, Chairman of the Chinese Association of Gauteng and Walter Pon, one of the first generation immigrants. Afterwards the group dined on Chinese cuisine at the  Yang Cheng Noodle Den restaurant in Newtown, Johannesburg.


Concluding the day, journalists joined representatives of Chinese businesses in South Africa for a seminar at China Construction Bank in Sandton. The event was organised jointly with the South Africa China Economy & Trade Association (SACETA) and People Daily SA, and featured discussion with the business people on issues pertaining to Africa-China economic relations and interactions with the media, among other issues.


Following the three-day training component of the workshop, the journalists embarked on ten days of fieldwork for their investigations while under the mentorship of experienced local journalists. On Nov. 20 the journalists each presented their findings at the Africa-China Journalists Forum, please see our review of that event.

The participating journalists have so far published the following news features based on their participation at the Africa-China Reporting Workshop:

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