By Enoch Sithole: 
The impacts of the Covid pandemic will be at the centre of discussion when East African communicators gather at the
Université Lumière de Bujumbura, in Burundi, later this month. 

The East African Communication Association (EACA) conference, scheduled for 29 – 31 August, has the official theme: “Media and communication: opportunities, lessons learned, and challenges for innovation technology during corona pandemic”. Established in 2011, the association serves as a platform for researchers, scholars, academics, policymakers, regulators and practitioners to discuss issues in communication.

According to vice-chancellor of the host university and EACA general secretary, Dr Yves Ndayikunda, the conference will be attended by delegates from the entire sub-continent, other African countries, Europe and America. 

The conference, said Dr Ndayikunda, would deal with several challenges in communication education: “Communication has become a competitive medium, globally. There is a lot of disruption, especially because of the ICT… Because, for example, everyone can create an account, such as a Facebook account or on Instagram and communicate. We are teaching for more communication in the form of journalism, while there is informal journalism that is taking place on the ground. That creates a lot of confusion in terms of the seriousness (of teaching journalism). I feel like everyone can write a story. Everyone can shoot a video.” 

Dr Ndayikunda decried the fact that there was “corruption associated with the ICT system”. It facilitates the circulation of fake news, for instance, he said. “So, what I mean is that it is a little bit challenging but it’s also an opportunity for our young ones to learn all those issues and come up with solutions,” he added.

The conference, he said, would deal with those issues based on papers that would be presented by various delegates. 

One burning issue in the region was the fact that media freedom was suppressed in some countries. The conference, said Dr Ndayikunda, could not avoid discussing the issue. “This is a scientific conference where everything is allowed to be discussed without any form of fear or complacence.

“It is true that in East Africa, I think we are not at the same level. There are some countries that are advanced compared to others, and the beauty is that we are working together, we try to improve our oneness by pulling those who are still behind. But I think, in general, we are doing fine,” he added.

More than 50 papers have already been submitted, covering a wide range of topics such as social media and gender-based violence to be presented by Anne Anjao from the Daystar University, in Kenya. Climate change will also feature based on a paper from Ann Mwende, titled Towards the impact of social media on people’s perception and action climate change. University of Iowa’s David Lomoywara will look at communication during Covid-19 through his paper titled Chat App during Covid-19: A Case of Selected Counties in Kenya.

Dr Ndayikunda invited communication scholars from other regions of the continent to attend the conference, saying they would be able to share their experiences and “it would be nice to learn from each other”.