Speech: China-Africa reporting needs more oil!

尊敬的各位来宾,女士们, 先生们, 大家下午好!Wanawake  na mabwana, Habari zenu! Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

It is a real pleasure to be here today to open this first ever award ceremony aiming to both recognise and incentivise the best Chinese reporting on my home continent, Africa.
Thank you for the invitation from both Tsinghua University and the Gates Foundation to provide an African perspective on the reporting today.  What is this perspective? Well, overall, I believe you have begun a great new “win-win” tradition for both China and Africa, and I hope you continue to take it forward.
Today, we have here reporters who have written stories from all sides of the continent. Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, Djibouti, and more. They have engaged with and shared their observations of people in all situations – learning, running, working, in bad health and good health…

Although my Chinese is not good enough to read all of the entries from the journalists, I could get a good flavour and I very much enjoyed those pieces that have already been translated to English.

For this, I warmly congratulate the 34 winning reporters. I know there were over 100 articles submitted, and making the decision for the winning pieces must have been a major challenge. In fact, some years ago I was involved in judging a competition for journalists who were writing about development issues all over the world. It was incredibly difficult, so I am glad some other people have managed to make the decision here! Well done to all!

But why could a competition like this, celebrating Chinese reporting on African countries, become a “win-win” tradition? Why does it need even more support going forwards? For two reasons.

First, it is win-win for China because China – especially with the Belt and Road Initiative – will undoubtedly continue to have a greater footprint in African countries and beyond. The bigger this footprint, the more crucial it becomes to explain the footprint, and have ordinary Chinese citizens understand and endorse it. That’s why it was so excellent to see – in the 34 winning entries we will reward today – articles from all media outlets – local and national. Ordinary Chinese people should have the opportunity to see and hear about other ordinary Chinese people living and working in African countries, and the African people they are living and working with and interacting with every day.

Second, it is a win-win for African countries because there are so many stories wanting and needing to be told about real life there. As a diplomat, policy analyst, economist, writer, my own personal view has always been that we are all human. Too often African people, poor people especially, are characterised as “the other”. But we all respond to the same incentives, market failures, costs, whenever and whoever we are. The more that Chinese and African people have the opportunity to realise this the better, and the stronger their relationship will be. Chinese Journalists stories, told freely, objectively, observationally and respectfully – can help strengthen understanding of our similar human responses and plights as we develop and grow.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me once again warmly congratulate everyone involved in conceiving and implementing this programme. It is an excellent start and should continue.

But most of let me congratulate all the journalists – do keep observing, do keep writing, and do remain focused on African countries. As we say here in China “加油 (jia you – add oil)”!

Asanteni sana. Thank you. 谢谢大家.

Speech given at the “Reporting on Africa by Chinese Journalists Awards Ceremony”, held by Tsinghua University and the Gates Foundation, Beijing, China

April 2017

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