AFRODAD in Partnership with SEATINI – UG, UDN and ACME Hold a National Media Workshop on Debt and Development
From 7th to 9th June 2021, the African Forum on Debt and Development (AFRODAD) in partnership with SEATINI – Uganda; Uganda Debt Network (UDN); and the African Centre for Media Excellence (ACME) held a 3 day national media workshop on debt and development. This workshop was a part of the overall Pan African Conference organized by AFRODAD. The objective of the workshop was to equip journalists with information and skills to understand issues of debt and development and actively and boldly engage in debate and influence decisions towards prudent debt management. It was also intended to provide journalists and editors with techniques to analyze facts, issues and data on debt and development. The workshop was attended by media practitioners, editors, reporters, producers, civil society, a Member of Parliament and a representative from the President’s office.
Jane Nalunga, the Executive Director at SEATINI Uganda, in her welcome remarks, re-echoed the role of the media in ensuring transparent and accountable use of loan resources if the country is to ably meet her loan obligations in future.
While giving opening remarks, Dr. Theophilus Yungong from AFRODAD highlighted that many African countries were already in debt distress despite having received relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative in 2006. This has been driven partly by the changing development finance architecture that has now brought on board expensive private lenders. He therefore emphasized that it remained important that the media played her role in conveying this information to the people in a way that they understood best.
On the human impact of the rising debt burden, Mr. Tirivangani Mutazu from AFRODAD mentioned that countries like Zambia were now paying more interest on debt than they were on other critical services combined. Some countries like Tunisia had to adopt austerity measures that left schools and hospitals underfunded and thus worsened their citizens’ livelihoods.
Mr. Gilbert Musinguzi from UDN mentioned that key points of concern include Government’s unrestrained appetite to borrow and the skewed prioritization of projects. He therefore called for thorough evaluation on the urgency of the mega infrastructural projects that were being loan funded.
Ms. Teresa Nannozi, a seasoned media trainer from ACME, while facilitating the workshop empathized the need for media to use figures only where necessary but rather become more descriptive in their writing. She also called on journalists to broaden their sourcing of information while writing debt stories but also to mind the language used when reporting on these issues highlighting that much of the reporting had remained technical and could not interest the layman. She also called on journalists to own their work rather than surrender their entire story to their interviewees. “You need to have your own opinions and views in any story that you develop,” she emphasized.
While attaching a human face to the different debt concepts, Mr. Ausi Kibowa, a Policy Analyst at SEATINI – Uganda, mentioned that the then Hon. Matia Kasaija had paid 4.1 trillion Ugandan Shs. in interest to lenders within the FY 2020/21. This was 70 times what was spent on food distribution during the lockdown imposed by the President. This left many Ugandans on the brink of starvation as many of them had been pushed into poverty. He therefore called on journalists to rethink how they defined debt sustainability highlighting that a debt becomes a burden when a country sacrifices the provision of essential services to her citizens in an effort to repay her debts.
During the workshop, several interactive methods were used to showcase the human impact of rising debt burdens. These included poems; cartoons; drama performances; and investigative videos. Therefore, while closing the workshop, journalists committed to playing an active role towards generating thorough investigative stories especially on debt and development.