China’s Media Engagement In Africa: A Case Study Of Uganda

Start date: 13 November, 2012 End date: 14 December, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A19421 Countries: Uganda Institutions: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark Grant recipient: Jákup Emil Hansen Total grant: 13,000 DKK



The growing expansion of China in Africa has come under the radar in recent years. Since 2009 China has become Africa´s largest trading partner surpassing the US. There is no doubt that China is a leading actor on the continent. Recently China’s engagement has also involved a softer side through media engagement. A free and independent press are vital for the good governance approach (James 2005:19). Western organisations have raised concern over the kind of journalism exported to African countries given that China’s press is firmly constrained (Farah2010:11). However scholars point out that there is a lack of evidence to validate these concerns (Brautigam 2011b:9). This justifies why I decided to focus my study on China’s media engagement in Africa to address this research gap.
This thesis is centred on stimulating the above discussion by investigating how China’s media engagement is different from DAC donors approach on media development and what the implications are for the Ugandan media. The research focuses on one of the elements of China’s media engagement in Africa that is, training programs offered by China to African journalists.
Uganda is selected as the case study for this research. Through semi-structured interviews of Ugandan journalists and media officers as well as other literature sources such as policy documents, the study opens up thought-provoking debate on the content of the training programs and the experiences of the participants.
The thesis identified that the training programs were based on strengthening China’s public diplomacy and public relations; therefore its media engagement is established on diplomatic and cultural purposes. While DAC donors approach differs as it is based on cooperation with local partners where by ownership and harmonisation are fundamental.
The data from the interviews indicated that the journalists were aware of the Chinese approach in influencing positive coverage and perception of China. According to the data those most likely to be impacted by this positive rhetoric are from government owned media hence the Chinese perception of media’s role as a government propaganda tool was nothing new.
On the other hand the technical assistance provided by Chinese firms to restrict freedom of speech and expression is becoming popular among incumbent and oppressive regimes in Africa like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe. Hence China’s media engagement in Uganda could in the near future impact negatively on DAC’s activities of promoting a free and independent press in case the Uganda government resorts to technology to limit media freedom.