African Journalism and Media in the Time of COVID-19

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African Journalism and Media in the Time of COVID-19


his series stems from a master’s course in international communication at the University of Witwatersrand (Wits University), where discussions revolved around the coverage of the African dimension of the COVID-19 pandemic by international and African media. After the completion of the classes, students submitted assignments in the form of essays, choosing one African country and its media or any international media outlet as the focus of analysis. The essays were subjected to a workshop program in which the students made presentations on their essays and received feedback from a group of 10 African journalism and media scholars under the auspices of the African Media Salon. They were published on the Africa Portal during December 2020 - February 2021.

These essays constitute an early contribution of knowledge on the intersection of media and international communication drawing on concepts such as public diplomacy, soft power and the international political economy of communication.

This series is a partnership of the Wits University’s Journalism Department, the African Centre for the Study of the United States and the Africa Portal, a project of the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).


Hashtags and Spectacles: Zimbabwe's Feminist Activists Find Online Avenues to Tackle Government's COVID-19 Clampdown

In 2020, with the arrival of the COVID-19 global pandemic and following a two-decade boom in internet access and digital media, parts of the feminist movement in Zimbabwe moved online in a tactical shift that prioritised social media spectacle as a way to challenge the patriarchal state, and also publicise abuses in public healthcare and related political abuses.

Mfuneko Toyana


Burundi and COVID-19: Africa's Representation in the International Media

Political tensions – which have always loomed large in the divided country – deepened in the leadup to the May 2020 elections. Concern grew about a rise in COVID-19 infections as scores of people turned up at rallies and public gatherings ahead of the polls.

Abdul Samba Brima


How Pan-African Media helped Madagascar Advance its Claim of a COVID-19 'Miracle Cure' as a Form of Medical Diplomacy

Madagascar attracted global media attention in April 2020 when President Andry Rajoelina announced a plant-based tonic that he claimed could both prevent and cure the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). By then, the global outbreak was proliferating and the scientific community was in a race to find a solution. Rajoelina claimed the remedy, named Covid-Organics, had been tested and proven effective, and that the product was an African formula that would save the world.

Amindeh Blaise Atabong


Agenda Setting Unpacked: A Review of Zimbabwe's Approach to Reporting during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes for journalists and their ability to freely disseminate information related to it. In countries such as Zimbabwe, where journalists are subjected to harsh punishment and even imprisonment when the state is opposed to what is being published, the protection of media experts and freedom has come under scrutiny.

Anda Mbikwana


Mistreatment of Africans in China during the COVID-19 Outbreak: When Economic Interests Supersede all Others

There was a huge outcry when videos of mistreatment of Africans in the Chinese city of Guangzhou went viral on social media in April 2020. This was after authorities in Guangdong province introduced stringent measures to curb the spread of COVID-19. Africans living there said they were forced to undergo mandatory testing and quarantine, were evicted from their homes, and turned away from public places.

Mabutho Ngcobo


Coverage of Senegal's Pandemic Response in Western Online News and Algorithm Filtering

Senegal, a small and politically stable coastal West African nation, has been hailed for its rapid response to combat the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19), for which it has received significant attention in Western media. This essay examines Western online news coverage of Senegal’s swift action against COVID-19 and the innovation the country employed to tackle the outbreak.

Ockert de Villiers