Communication for Sustainable Development

African Journalists Challenged to find Balance Between Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice

Sculptures of the four South African Nobel Pea...Image via Wikipedia
About 600 African journalists attending the 15th Highway Africa Conference in Cape Town South Africa have been challenged to suggest ways in which Africa can find a balance between environmental sustainability and social justice on the continent.
MTN Group Corporate Affairs Executive, Rich Mkhondo made the call at a dinner hosted by MTN South Africa to welcome the delegates from across Africa
including Adom News Editor Nii Narku Dowuona and Metro TV’s Beatrice Spio-Garbrah, both sponsored by MTN Ghana.

The theme for conference is African Media and Global Sustainability Challenge.

Mr. Mkhondo noted that environmental sustainability is necessary to stem climate challenge, but it is difficult to ignore the challenges of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment in Africa in the name of environmental sustainability.

“How can you explain to that poor woman who has no money to buy a stove and depends on fire wood for cooking that the wood she uses to make food for her family is destroying the environment,” he asked.

Mr. Mkhondo noted that a greater proportion of the African populace did not have access to electricity and can only afford lanterns at night which emit green house gases into the environment and yet “these people need to understand that their poverty is killing the atmosphere.”

He admitted that finding a balance between environmental sustainability and social justice for the poor in Africa was a difficult task, but expressed the hope that journalists, as watchdogs and spokespersons of society, would be able to fashion out recommendation to ensure a fair balance between the two.

Mr. Mkhondo said MTN Group head office in South Africa is designed to be environmentally friendly, adding that services such as MTN Mobile Money, MTN Google Trader, and MTN Google Health, were all designed to contribute indirectly to environmental sustainability.

“When you use your phone to transact business through Mobile Money or MTN Google Trader, rather than driving your car to a point for that business, it reduces emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere,” he said.

He noted the MTN also used this year’s 21 Days of Yello Care to plant trees, and the target was to plant 150,000 trees across the 21 operations, including Ghana, where almost 16,000 trees were planted by MTN in June this year.

Vice Chancellor of the University of Rhodes University, Professor Saleem Badat said social justice and environmental justice are two sides of the same coin, adding that one could not be pursued at the expense of the other.

“The two must be pursued simultaneously and not consecutively,” he said.

He noted that one of the reasons Africa had delayed in finding solutions to the challenges of poverty, hunger and underdevelopment was because African leaders had reduced their citizen’s power into political power, and only consult them during election year for votes.

Prof. Badat noted that across Africa, leaders tend to focus on subjects that confront that continent without focusing on the people who are affected by those subjects.

“There is the need for more Africans to be trained in the humanities so that they can engage governments more critically on issues that affect the rights of the people, instead of only focusing on technologies that protects the rights of the environment at the expenses of the people,” he said.

Some of the journalists at the conference agreed that the social rights of Africans should take the centre stage in the environmental sustainability discussion.

Over the next four days the journalists would be discussing issues such as African media and development challenge, innovation in the media, covering climate change, mobile and convergence, and others.

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