About two years back I lamented on this page about the disturbing trend by media houses in East Africa of ignoring news in neighbouring countries something that I argued made integration a much slower process.
I pointed out that there is a tendency for Kenyan media to ignore events in Uganda, while Rwandan media also ignores a lot of what happens in Kenya and the pattern continues with almost each country in this region. The only exception is when there is a major crisis such as insecurity or political tensions.
Credit must be given to Nation Media Group for doing a lot to cover East Africa as a region even through its localised newspapers or TV stations. Of late I have been thinking a lot about what has changed, if any, since I first wrote about the above concern. And indeed there is an interesting observation I landed on.
It appears that lately several East African media houses (especially TV stations) are interested in covering Rwandan stories compared to other countries in the region. If we are to just look at this year so far, you realise that Ugandan and Kenyan media houses camped in Kigali to extensively cover Rwandan stories.
The 20th commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi and the liberation celebrations are good pointers. But that is not all; camera crews from Kampala and Nairobi were here for the gorilla naming ceremony and left with footage on so many other topics. Through NTV Uganda, NTV Kenya, Citizen TV, KTN, Urban TV and others, a bit of Rwanda comes to your living room every once in a while.
But what does this really mean? Why do news editors in Kampala and Nairobi feel compelled to come for a bit of Rwanda and yet the reverse is not really true. What makes the Rwandan story this compelling?
Why don’t we see Tanzania covered this much by Ugandan or Kenyan media? Am yet to see even Rwandan media covering Ugandan or Burundian stories in a similar fashion and yet these are countries with which they have strong historical and political links.
My thinking on this is that it has more to do with Rwanda than the media houses. Someone once said that Rwanda is managed like a corporate entity with President Kagame acting more like a CEO than your average president of a tropical nation.
And like any well run company, publicity of what the company does and how it does it is a must. The World Cup shows this better where some of the world’s biggest and most successful companies like Coca-Cola and Sony Electronics still invest heavily in advertisement.
It appears therefore that Rwanda is following the same script here by ensuring that nothing impressive in Rwanda remains a secret to those outside. It is not easy to tell whether this is a result of lobbying and or simply a long term concerted effort to tell Rwanda’s story to a point that others feel the need to be part of the messengers of this message.
As an EAC enthusiast my interest is in how much this coverage has helped Ugandans and Kenyans to understand Rwanda and Rwandans much better. Whether it is about the genocide against the Tutsi, the tourism sector and its conservation efforts or the one laptop per child programme it is all good in my view.
I would really love to see other East African countries also getting the same treatment Rwanda gets from regional media. Would you not love to be in Rwanda, Burundi or Uganda and learn more about Kenya’s vibrant economy or its long distance world conquerors from the Rift Valley?
I would love to see media houses in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya showing something about Tanzania and Burundi. A feature on Taraab music or the mining industry in Tanzania would be as educative as something on Bujumbura’s tourism attractions and business opportunities.
If NTV Uganda can do a story on the tourism sites of Rwanda why should we not see Rwanda TV or any of the new Rwandan TVs also doing something about the beauty of the Rwenzori mountain ranges in Western Uganda or the universities that attract hundreds of Kenyans, Tanzanians, Rwandans and Burundians?
It is not rocket science to see that when the media covers more human interest and historical stories about the countries in East Africa we all learn more about each other and integrate not from a point of ignorance.