We were eight journalists from seven French-speaking African countries, taking part in a five-day advanced course at the Majestic Hotel in Tunis to strengthen our skills in covering finance and governance.
Development finance, international financial flows, the fight against corruption, tax evasion, corporate governance and financial transparency were the themes for investigative story projects that the participants had to work up.
Each project was reviewed collectively by the participants during the course to weed out inconsistencies, adjust story angles and suggest lines of inquiry.
Each trainee participated actively in this work, which allowed us to gain from each other’s ideas and projects.
Under the guidance of David White and Diadié Ba, the journalists chosen for the December finance and governance course came from Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Togo and Tunisia itself. All except one had already taken part in a previous economic and financial reporting course organised, like this workshop, by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (Norad).
Alongside discussion of story projects, the workshop also allowed for exchanges of view on financial issues with experts from the African Development Bank and a Tunisian anti-corruption initiative. Taoufik Chamari, president of the newly formed National Anti-Corruption Network (R’NAC) discussed the role of civil society in this struggle, including support for victims of corruption and the promotion of safeguard mechanisms.
The experts from the African Development Bank set out to explain a number of financial issues. Stefan Nalletamby, partnership co-ordinator of Making Finance Work for Africa, gave us details of this new programme for helping Africa’s private sector to develop. Thouraya Triki, a senior economist in the research department, talked about access to credit – one of the main barriers for companies in Africa – and the potential impact of credit information reporting systems.
The director of the AfDB’s development research department, Désiré Vencatachellum, tackled the issue of resource mobilisation. “The problem with aid,” he noted, “is that it is very volatile according to economic cycles.”
David White led sessions on corporate governance, the use of tax havens, debt issues and the legal traps that journalists needed to avoid, while Diadié Ba discussed Africa’s relations with China.
A visit to the Tunis Stock Exchange enabled participants to see and hear how an African securities market functions. Senior executives led by CEO Mohamed Bichiou responded to the journalists’ questions and concerns. For most of the participants, it was the first time they had set foot inside a stock exchange.