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A perfectly timed metro issue prevented me from attending the recently concluded National Endowment for Democracy event on ‘The Role of Media Development in Democratic Transitions: The Case of Southern Africa‘.

While I am saddened at the loss of the opportunity to see the lady in the brown skirt who often shows up at NED events, I am heartened that this issue is being discussed (although the bias toward participants of US origin is a bit unfortunate).  I have devoted considerable attention to Zimbabwe in the last weeks, a country that aside from its relatively frequently bombed newspapers, has basically no independent media.

South Africa aside (and even the Rainbow Nation does not have much of a projection – I loved watching Rhythm City, but it doesn’t seem to have much reach in Africa), the region on the whole does not seem to have a particularly vibrant media infrastructure, especially when one goes beyond newspapers, which are falling increasingly out of favor worldwide – however, the Wilson Center has recently informed me that Zambia now has a Chinese language newspaper.

As the region represents the part of Africa that is best connected to larger global currents and is primarily English speaking, further development of southern African media should have important repercussions in shaping global perceptions of Africa.

You can read the report the event is based on here.  Interestingly, it seems to only address South Africa.