Exhilarating, enthralling, somewhat overwhelming – just some of the adjectives I would use to describe my first day at the Highway Africa Conference. When I first found out that I would be attending this prestigious conference, I was excited, intrigued, and yes, a little scared – I knew what Highway Africa Conference was about, but I was not quite sure what to expect. So with wide-eyed curiosity, I went to the conference and what I experienced was beyond any expectations.
Just as Europe’s fashion fraternity converge upon Paris Fashion Week for the season’s latest trends, so too do African journalists converge at the Highway Africa Conference to discuss various issues and trends impacting on the African media. The conference is in its 14th year and it seeks to continually develop journalism and journalism education, as well as a vibrant network of African journalists.
This year’s theme for the conference is ‘African voices in the global media space’ and the conference features exhibitions, book launches, training programmes and discussions around this theme. I think that this is a timely theme with the growth of new media technologies and the resultant explosion of information and media content producers – how are African voices contributing to this new media environment? Is the African media still dominated by a western concept of what news is? What about the multitude of African journalists that are harassed, maimed and killed for expressing themselves, when the right to seek and impart information should be an inalienable right from the bustling streets of New York City, to war-torn neighbourhoods of Sudan?
These questions continued to linger in my mind as I sat through the rest of the discussions in the company of esteemed guests such as Mathatha Tsedu, chairperson of the African Editors Forum and Mr John Kufuor, former president of Ghana. As an aspirant African journalist, I have to be aware of the many burning issues facing the African media. I have already learnt a lot from my first day here at the Highway Africa Conference, and I believe that this knowledge is invaluable for my career.
We all know that as much as there are many journalism students in the country, however, only a few of these students end up being journalists, and of those journalists, only some achieve longevity in their careers. As such, I believe that attending this conference will expose me to influential people who can greatly aid me in my career and it will give me knowledge that will help me establish myself as a young journalist.
Attending the Highway Africa Conference is like drinking from a fountain of wisdom – only good things can come from it. In the same way Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk moon, saw his exploits as a "one giant leap for mankind", I see attending this conference as one giant leap for my career.
By: Zinhle Mncube