Back in full swing in 2021, the annual Highway Africa summit conference ran virtually over three days in June, with 136 unique attendees.
“Given that it’s the first time we have done a fully-online conference, we were very pleased with this turn-out and also pleased that the delegates covered a range of types of media,” said Professor Anthea Garman, Head of the School of Journalism and Media Studies and Chair of the Highway Africa Steering Committee.
Over 20 speakers gathered to discuss the impacts of platformisation on Africa’s news media, business models and journalism practices during the three-day period.
“What Highway Africa always shows us is just how many people in the media and the media-related areas (like teaching, training, advocacy, funding and research) care so very deeply about the health and independence of media in Africa. It’s always heartening to see that degree of commitment,” Prof Garman stated.
An issue that kept on arising during the conference was the uncertainty of a sustainable future for journalism, in particular after the pandemic and in the face of the huge global social media platforms rearranging the media space.
“Those who have a wider picture of how the future is unfolding for the media across the globe, are urging us here in Africa to work together, to build partnerships and coalitions across countries and across the media landscape and not to try to tackle the very large challenges we face alone,” said Prof Garman.
Following the success of the conference, one of the speakers Guy Berger, Director for Freedom of Expression and Media Development at UNESCO, commented: “The event did Rhodes University proud and shared critical insights at a watershed time.”
The Highway Africa team envision the continuation of Highway Africa as an annual conference. “An annual conference seems to have the right kind of rhythm and if the COVID-19 situation doesn’t improve, we will be online again,” Prof Garman concluded.
For an indepth look at some of the sessions, please see various reportbacks on www.ru.ac.za/latestnews.
The official Highway Africa site can be found at https://highwayafrica.ru.ac.za.