Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Europe Africa roundtable chat show highlights

Brussels, 4 June. Some people got their first taste of being in a chat show towards the end of the Monday afternoon roundtable on improving information links between Africa and Europe. Following presentations and small group discussions, Catherine Fisher from IDS played host quizzing three brave participants on their perspectives. The 'audience' got into the spirit of things with plenty of applause and cheering but restrained themselves from any Jerry Springer-style behaviour.

Thought-provoking comments from the guests included:

Networks can be incestuous and working with close, likeminded organisations may just reinforce like-mindedness and stifle innovation

A lot of local research is not read by local policy makers - unless it has been 'rubber stamped' by an influential EU donor. But it takes too long for EU donors to recognise the value of local NGOs. They are only just starting to credit local knowledge.

Local culture: In a survival economy, you don't necessarily share information as you think people will profit from it (to your cost) e.g. I am funded by such-and-such donor. Where people don’t want to share, we need to re-think many of our assumptions on the 'free' exchange of information.

More than creating local content – it isn't necessarily increasing local content that will make people read it, but increasing the capacity in making it interesting to read. Sometimes, having a 'northern' co-author gives local content some authority.

Is it more important to improve African to African linkages, than to inclrease Africa to Europe linkages?

NGOs are sometimes in competition and that’s ok.

Can you knock Europe out of the equation? Don’t think you can: If we look at the EU strategy for Africa, and negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements, it is essential that the African public and African NGOs need to be linked to the networks that are trying to push for equal negotiating ground between Africa and Europe.

Often, We still focus on the written text and ignore oral communication – the new media tools will be much more useful in African context e.g. mobile telephones for agricultural extension, HIV patients, etc. We should be more creative, looking at what is the local way of communicating before you jump to using ICTs.

Story by Cheryl Brown

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