DECEMBER 5, 2014 By Abdul Karim Koroma
Sierra Leone’s youngest Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, Ismael Koroma, has admonished press and communication experts at embassies of AU member states and international organizations in Ethiopia to engage in thematic news reporting to popularise the African Union Agenda 2063.
In his brilliant and scholastic presentation as guest lecturer at a workshop designed to engage communication experts in the implementation of the AU Communication Strategy, and popularisation of the AU Agenda 2063, in the Ethiopian city of Debrie-Zeit on 3 December, Ambassador Koroma talked about the significance of press and communication attaches to the rebranding process of Africa. He highlighted the thrust of the AU Agenda 2063 and proposed relevant means to engage the African population in order to achieve the desired objectives set out in the AU’s vision and action plan to ensure rapid socio-economic and political transformation on the continent.
He described the Agenda 2063 document as a unique opportunity for Africa to capitalise upon, as “it underlines the fact that success depends on unity of purpose, transparency, placing citizens’ first, sound governance, willingness and capability to assess performance and correct mistakes timely”. He said the Agenda should be seen as a logical continuation of recent developments with renewed and invigorated efforts to catalyse development and strengthen African integration and unity.
Ambassador Koroma explained that the brilliant ideas suggested in the document would not be implemented in the absence of the availability of trained and experienced communication professionals or a properly coordinated and robust communication strategy, detailing among other things specific messages, targeting specific audiences with specific results in mind.
He said the issue of changing attitudes and mind-sets requires a thorough understanding of communication processes, and proposed the utilization of the Diffusion Theory as apt for explaining and exposing the ideas of the Agenda 2063 in order to ensure quick adaptation and ownership of the process by the African people.
He said if the vision of the Agenda should succeed, the majority of the people on the continent must first be exposed to the great ideals and benefits of the document. He emphasized that there can be no better set of people to disseminate the information and arouse people’s interest on the great African Renaissance which calls for changes in attitudes and mind-sets to inculcate the right set of African values than communication experts who have been trained to do so.
Ambassador Koroma entreated press and communication attachés on the continent to embark on thematic rather than episodic reporting. He opined that the thematic news reporting can be very useful in popularizing the Agenda 2063, pointing out that Shanto Iyengar’s research shows that episodic news leaves people with shallow understandings of the world around them, while the thematic approach would help in the implementation and popularization of the African Union Agenda 2063.
He stated that the approach would enable press attachés and communication experts to develop and come up with news and feature stories without necessarily waiting for events to be convened by the African Union, embassies or other like-minded organizations. He said the danger in going episodic news would mean that news articles would only surface when staged events take place.
Ambassador Koroma was a Media and Communication Lecturer at the Department of Mass Communication, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone, before his appointment as Deputy Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.