By Wilhelmina Maboja
Many of you are well aware that trying to even appear to sit gracefully on one of the many swing chairs at Eden Grove Red is close to impossible. It is one thing to see a fellow student try and shimmy themselves into the seat but a Highway Africa delegate? Hilarious! It’s even better when they pretend that their final manoeuvre was effortless, unknown to an observer who sinks into their seat in muffled laughter.
Since its existence for 14 years, one of the main things that the Highway Africa conference is trying to achieve has been to bring African journalists together. From this, a forum is created where issues of the media, media in Africa and the international perspective of Africa can be discussed.
It was then, amid this roomful of delegates, that something profound overwhelmed me: There’s a strong possibility that my future employer had a glimpse of my underwear on my way to my seat, simply because I forgot to wear a belt today. Then again, being one of the world’s largest annual conferences for African journalists, it was only fitting that I began my voyage of gathering knowledge in such a way.
The keynote address was started off with the Head of the Rhodes Journalism Department Guy Burger, who emphasised that the conference was a place where knowledge and scholarship can prosper. This set the tone for me to exercise my many journalistic skills of subtle stalking and over-eager questioning of delegates. In addition, I was told to bear in mind what Highway Africa was trying to achieve and how it would contribute to my career.
From what one can see, one of the aims of the conference was to lay out the sorely obvious fact that African voices in the media were being determined by the West. Professor Alfred Opubor, who was part of a panel discussion, put the issue faultlessly: ''There are African voices but there is no African voice…and while there is media in Africa, there is no African media''.
Additionally, when seminars paused for a break, the second aim the conference tries to achieve showed: The food. Whether it was a three course breakfasts, lunch or dinner, proudly sponsored by organisations such as Telkom and Media24, it was clear that the informational weight of the conference was to be consumed in both ways.
Such a collaboration of local, regional and international media makers and participators in one location undoubtedly allows Highway Africa to achieve its goal on emphasising communication and for it to be used as a medium. This is from the tech-savvy journalist to the man who sells amakipkip (rainbow popcorn) on a street corner. The very fact that I can tweet about the conference and the grumpy man in front of me who would rather play with his ipad than listen to the keynote address shows that techology and media are two peas in a pod.
It is evident that the potential to network with grand heavyweights of the African media world and their often poor sense of style (a golf shirt and tie will never be ideal), could possibly contribute to the journalist I want to be, the pursuit of my career as not only a traveller of my continent but a coffer of knowledge of it.
Highway Africa is my potential platform to the world of African media with the hope that it can achieve the goal of turning a collection of African voices into one African voice in the global media space. Golf shirt and tie excluded.