Sunday, 2 February 2014

Meet Tapang Ivo Tanku one of the 10 Journalists to Represent Africa at the Africa-EU Energy Partnership Meeting in Addis Ababa.

Tapang Ivo Tanku is an International Journalist, media and communications expert, with special interest in peace journalism. He is one of the high level participants awaited at The Africa Eu partnership meeting take place in Ethiopia, from the 11-13 of February 2014. He has been awarded a scholarship. Our team interviewed Ivo this weekend. Here is what he has to say about the Africa-EU partnership on Energy.

Tell us about yourself, and how you knew about the Africa EU Energy Partnership High Level Meeting?

I am a 26-year-old Cameroonian from a humble Christian background.  My intentions to become a priest in the Catholic church where drifted apart by my passion to study geology in the University of Buea (UB), Cameroon upon completing my GCE Advanced level in good science grades. However, I was admitted into the department of journalism and mass communication, something I never applied nor wished for in life. But I took up the challenge as I was encouraged by my mates who also had science backgrounds. However I took several courses in geology besides my mainstream courses.

You will be surprised to know that my best grades came from geology instead. In 2007, I worked pro bono for the state broadcaster CRTV Buea while completing my studies in UB, and later on moved to CRTV Yaoundé in 2008. I worked for both TV and radio. I left CRTV to work as Cameroon stringer for BBC World Service Africa and CNN. I have been a stringer for CNN since 2011. I am a career diplomat trained at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon, and holder of an MA in diplomacy and IR, specializing in international communication and globalization. However, I have chosen to expand my career within international bodies like the World Wild Fund for nature (WWF) whose goals are well-grounded in science. So you see I have a multidisciplinary and dynamic background.

I first saw the call for application for the Young Journalist Scholarship offered by the Africa EU Energy Partnership a few days to its deadline. I was strongly encouraged to apply for the scholarship by a colleague and friend whom we both share professional advises. I carefully read the Terms of Reference online, and then applied for the scholarship. It was a very tough decision given that more than nearly 300 applicants from Europe and Africa were also competing. But I had the conviction that I must succeed. When I saw that the competition was for journalists below 35, I imagined the portfolio of other journalists who are older than me and who could have achieved much in their career as well. However, that did not frighten me.

The Africa-EU partnership meeting is great opportunity for African decision makers to develop new ideas to better manage energy, experts say. What is your take about that?

That is absolutely correct. When we talk of stakeholders here, we should include everyone at every rung of the ladder. The less empowered and marginalized persons in our communities who strongly depend on forest resources for their livelihoods. For example, how will you tell the nearly 70 percent of Cameroonians who solely depend on forest resources for charcoal to stop exploiting the forest? We have seen indigenous communities in Cameroon like the Baka people whose heritage have been pushed to the brinks of extinction by large-scale companies exploiting forest resources unsustainably in the East of Cameroon. This is unfair. We need to create an environment where humans and nature live in harmony. If you talk of managing energy, you must first think of preserving forests like the Congo Basin - the world’s largest rainforest after the Amazon. These resources hold a huge carbon potential, enough to prevent a changing climate.

There are very many sources of clean, cheap and safer energy Cameroon can exploit. We have the sun for solar energy and the wind for wind energy. Cameroon has an enormous solar energy potential than both California and Germany. We are yet to exploit that eventhough we keep focusing on problems generated by our hydroelectricity company. The major problem to our energy concerns is governance. With good governance we will start reaping the benefits of our untapped potentials. Basically, you see an integrated-participatory approach involving everyone directly concerned in addressing the energy problem in Cameroon like elsewhere in the world.

The Meeting announces scholarship for African and European young journalists; you are among the lucky 10 who will be representing Africa. How does it feel to be shortlisted among Hundreds of Africans and Europeans who applied for this opportunity?

I feel well pleased to be recognized as one of the ten laureates selected among near 300 applicants from Europe and Africa. I am humbled to know that Africans like me are recognized for their professionalism on the global stage. When I take a look at Cameroon in international relations, it is all about corruption, bribery, bad governance, etc. Sports diplomacy is what has been projecting a positive image of Cameroon although it has been on criticism in the last decade.

Now, my award will only help project Cameroon a green light. A Nigerian, Zambian and Ugandan were selected too from Africa. These are all countries with prolific and investigative international journalists. I am proud to say, I am only taking my country to run neck-to-neck with stronger states. I am also filled with delight to know that I was selected alongside EU journalists. Given the difficult conditions under which we as journalists work in Cameroon, I feel really satisfied to be recognized for my professionalism.

The meeting promises to train you on best ways to report energy stories; after which you will have to make a publication prior meeting. What angles of attack do have as interest?

I have special interests in renewable energies. I am an advocate of solar energy and wind turbines. We depend so much on AES-SONEL – the sole provider of hydroelectricity in Cameroon. Yet we regularly complain about their erratic and unsatisfactory supplies, high cost of services, etc. We should now be aiming at solar panels that will generate electricity to our homes, businesses, schools, etc. We have the potential to do that effectively. It is very safe and cheap to run your home on solar panels than on hydroelectricity. This is what I hope to lobby stakeholders on.

There will be panelists coming from all over Africa. Who do you particularly want to interview?

Firstly, I will have the rare privilege to interact with key decision makers in Africa and the EU. Those who influence policies at local, national and international levels. These are the kind of people I will like to interview. Secondly, there are the ordinary people who are also influential too. Without them we will be working for nothing. I hope to get their views on critical energy concerns. That way, I am only advocating and lobbying stakeholders to adopt and implement sustainable energy policies on the “Dark Continent”.

What is the added value of such a meeting to African countries?

Firstly this meeting is taking place in Africa to solve the African problem. This means that Africans are mature enough to make the best of their natural resources. Secondly, by partnering with the EU, this takes another great step in strengthening the economic and political relationship between the two bodies – AU and EU. We live in a complex interdependent world and all state barriers have been broken by technologies, trade, international communication, etc. Basically in this globalized world, states must work together for a common goal.

The unsaid part you have to play after the meeting is that you need to write stories which will put pressure on the local governments to better manage their energy resources. Do you think you as a journalist after receiving such training can pressurize the governments of CEMAC countries to cease corruption in the energy sector?

Yes I think. I have a strong multi-dynamic and multidisciplinary academic and professional background to successfully execute this task. As a journalist, I believe your job is to power to account. Use soft power in bring out good governance among CEMAC member states.

The journey to Africa’s Economic Freedom begins with knowledge and competitiveness. We must appreciate this brilliant award.

This article was first published on

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