Our African member unions may not have big resources but they are not short of good ideas and initiatives. One of their big successes is to hold every statutory meeting of their leadership in a separate country. This allows them to deal with normal business like any other leadership, but also serves as a mini-congress to give a health check to their work programme and boost the standing of their host unions. I attended the last meeting of the leadership of the Federation of African Journalists hosted by our Sudanese affiliate, the Sudanese Union of Journalists (see below the opening session).
Our visit lasted only 48 hours but it was an eye opener. Apart from meeting their activists and hearing in fine details about their efforts to build their unions, we also heard first hand about the issues they confront daily and how they have been trying to resolve them. The SUJ has, for a while now, put a major thrust to build its ability to recruit journalists and support students of journalism, including involvement with their curriculum and insisting on a strong formation to improve the overall professionalism of all working journalists. This is bearing great result and is turning it into our second biggest union in Africa after Nigeria.
Another major effort has been campaigns and advocacy. And in mobilising the strength of their members to react to every action taken by their authorities against individual journalists or media, they have become the authoritative voice for press freedom in their country to the extent that the Sudanese government is now intensively consulting them in the drafting of the country’s new media law. They are also one of our few unions participating in the work of a press council which they initiated.
This FAJ leadership meeting also took the lead among IFJ regions in producing a strategic plan for 2012-2016, a forward-looking move that will position the regional body as a serious actor in the development of the African continent. The plan is now been sent to affiliates as well as the IFJ’s leading structures for consultation. It may not be perfect or ambitious enough, but it is being finalised through the widest collective effort giving journalists and their unions a stake in the future of their countries and societies, and firmly rooted in their reality and sustained by their own vision of the future of Africa.