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A Multi-Donor Initiative to Help African Media Institutions

Media institutions and journalists throughout Africa face enormous challenges ranging from the need to improve professionalism to addressing issues of poverty in the media as well as legal and ethical concerns.

Participants at the just concluded inaugural meeting of the African Media Leaders' Forum in Dakar, Senegal had been discussing these challenges facing the media. The Dakar meeting was co-sponsored by the World Bank.

Cameroonian-born Eric Chinje, head of the World Bank's external affairs division for Africa, told VOA the Bank and a coalition of donors working through the African Media Initiative plan to support media sustainability in Africa.

"The Africa Media Initiative is a multi-donor initiative that will seek to create a revolving fund that will, like any financial institution, provide loans at little or no interest but with an administrative fee, may be. The initiative will also result in the creation of a foundation that should hopefully provide grants to media institutions, may be in countries coming out of conflict like in the case of Liberia to help in creating viable media institutions in the country," he said.

Chinje said the African Media Initiative would provide the platform for the interventions of the World Bank and others. He said there would be a link between the initiative and the African Media Leaders' Forum to provide some oversight.

He said even though the media initiative is not a World Bank's own initiative, he expects the World Bank to play a significant role.

"I am currently chair of the African Media Initiative Steering Committee which obviously puts the bank at the center of this whole effort. But it is not the World Bank initiative. The initiative would be advertising in the coming days for the position of an executive director who will be based in Africa, will have a secretariat ultimately in Africa and run the institution from there, but with an important donor oversight," he said.

Chinje said steps have been taken to address the legitimate concern that the contents of media institutions receiving financing under the initiative could be controlled.

"That is adequately addressed in the conceptual framework of the African Media Initiative. As I said, it is multi-donor. It brings in the private donor; it brings in foundations and so on. So there is no single institution outside or within Africa that will be the dominant force within the African Media Initiative. Contributors will include African players, non-African players, donors and non-African donors," he said.

Chinje said clear criteria are being developed through which media institutions receiving funding would be held accountable.

"It's not going to be a free flow of resources. Requests would be studied and applied against the set of criteria that have been agreed to. The ultimate objective is to be able to ensure that, in all the countries in Africa, that we can have on the policy an appropriate environment for media to operate, on the investment side that basic access to capital is available to media, on the infrastructure side, that every serious media house be in a position acquire and use adequate infrastructure and equipment, and journalists have option when it come to training. These options should be made available media professionals across the continent," Chinje said.