African journalists urged to decolonise climate change reporting

By Ndi Eugene Ndi in Machakos, Kenya.

As Africa grapples with the challenges of decarbonisation, experts say the media has a key role to play in elevating the continent’s voices at the international level in the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.

Mohamed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa (PSA), says African journalists need to drive conversations and increase media salience of climate issues on public and political agenda and advance public understanding of the issue.

Addressing some over 40 journalists from different media houses across the continent at the second edition of the Africa Journalists Climate Training in Machakos, Kenya, on Monday August 28, 2023, Adow said to resolve Africa’s high hydrocarbon dependence, journalists must report climate stories from an Africa perspective using Africa voices – what he describes as decolonisation of climate stories.

Mohammed Adow speaking at Africa Journalists Climate Training in Machakos Kenya | Photo by Power Shift Africa

“We have to decolonise stories in order to decarbonise [Africa],” Adow said.The two-day training was jointly organised by PSA – a climate and energy think tank providing policy analysis, advocacy and communications from an African perspective, the Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (MESHA) and partners.

“When it comes to climate change, Africa is the most affected. Sadly, the continent is also the least engaged and informed about its seriousness despite significant first-hand experiences of its devastating impacts,” Adow regretted.

Climate issues, Adow said, are yet to be on the top of the agenda in African newsrooms as they continue to be relegated to the back pages of publications while “other stories take prominence” on the front pages like politics and economy, whereas policy makers and communities have to be aware of the data and projections.

“We must do better and the time is now,” Adow told journalists in his opening remarks of the two-day training.

Contrary to views that climate change stories are not very sexy to newsrooms, Aghan Daniel, Chief Executive Officer of MESHA, said such stories can be sexier than politics and others if reporters moved from just reporting the doom and gloom aspects of climate change – the catastrophes.

“Climate change is very sexy if we can put human faces on them,” he said, noting that a vulnerable person affected will feel part of the story if his or her voice is included, just like those who are doing things to mitigate climate change.

Group photo of participants at the Africa Journalists Climate Training | Photo by Power Shift Africa

The training, the second after the inaugural last year in Kigali, Rwanda, comes ahead of the first-ever Africa Climate Summit to be held in Nairobi beginning Friday.

According to the United Nations, over 75 percent of the 2.6 billion people globally who do not still have access to safe, clean fuels and technologies for cooking or heating their homes are in sub-Saharan Africa. 

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