Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Africa-Europe Roundtable: Food for thought

Brussels, 4 June. The plenary session of the Roundtable 'Towards more effective Africa-Europe information exchange, communication, and knowledge collaboration' kicked off with contributions from three people working with African information and media.

Joseph Ngawi of the Southern Africa Research Documentation Centre (SARDC) presented its Virtual Library catalogue of publications on Southern Africa. SARDC coverS six programme areas: THE environment, gender, human development, sustainable governance, media and regional development. The services allow you to search the site library, experts database and the southern africa media network. Many of the SARDC featured publications are available online such as the Mozambique national development report produced in conjunction with UNDP.

This major resource is not well known enough in Europe and Joseph would like to work with partners to make the virtual library known more widely through information sharing and exchange.

David Barnard introduced Sangonet which began life as an alternative communications network in the 80s. In the 90s Sangonet developed into an ISP for NGOs in Southern Africa. Sangonet believes that by improving information flows, the development process can be improved. Sangonet is now a faciltator rather than a service provider.

Linking civil society through ICTs is achieved through 3 activities: a) ICT advocacy, b) civil society information services, and c) ICT services. The historical context needs to be understood before sharing collaboration and communication can be maximised. Cost of information and technology is a major limitation - as are the digital differences between Europe and Africa (see map).

"No development without communication for development and no communication for development without the media." This was the message from Nicolas Pompigne-Mognard of the Pan-African Press Association.

The association has 2700 subscribers from African media organisers who receive 35 press releases a day from APPA. Their subscribers come from all over Africa with 50% being francophone. The APPA webcast is a new way to allow African journalists to cover international events - they can hear a conference through skype.

The three presentations all presented different interventions that support a similar purpose - the need for more communication. As Nicolas said: "No Development without Communication"

After the presentations, participants in one of the small groups exchanged ideas on the issues arising from the presentations. Check out 10 ways to improve Africa-Europe information exchange.

Story by Chris Addison

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