World Federation of Science Journalists

WFSJ mentees and mentors tot up frequent flier miles


January 25, 2007

by Christina Scott

Nairobi airport in east Africa seems to be a favourite meeting place for WFSJ people, perhaps because the coffee at the airport's Java House outlet is not just excellent, but can be paid for in a variety of currencies!
In January, Malawian science reporter Charles Mkoka passed through Nairobi airport on an arduous return journey from a meeting in Niamey, the capital of Niger in west Africa, to evaluate progress made in achieving the United Nations' Millenium Development Goals.
Charles - a mentee of Dagmar Roehrlich in Cologne, Germany - had to fly through a series of countries and capitals, from Niamey to Abidjan in Côte d'Ivoire, then to Accra in Ghana to Nairobi. From there he still had to fly via Lusaka in Zambia to reach home in Lilongwe in Malawi in the southern end of the continent.
On exactly the same day, Kenyan science reporter Kimani Chege was in Nairobi airport on his way to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia in the horn of Africa in order to cover the Africa Union's first high-level heads of state summit on science and technology (and climate change, and also the African footballer of the year ceremony!). Chege was reporting on the AU summit for the Science and Development Network website, and was also planning to make contact with Haileyesus Worku, the Ethiopian television reporter being mentored by Julie Clayton in Bristol in the United Kingdom.
A month or two earlier, German radio science reporter Jan Lublinski was busy typing up evaluation notes on his laptop in the airport when he ran into South African science reporter Christina Scott, who was able to point him in the direction of a plug point so he could power up his exhausted computer.
They had both attended the WFSJ peer-to-peer mentoring programme at the United Nations climate change conference in Nairobi but she had returned to Cape Town for the weekend to take care of her three children while he remained behind to continue to cover the remainder of the negotiations.
They bumped into each other at the airport after Scott had come back up on the overnight flight via Johannesburg and was waiting for a connection to Yaoundé in Cameroon in order to attend her next assignment, the African Science Academies Development Initiative, while Lublinski was waiting to return to Bonn.
And of course it is also true that a dozen WFSJ reporters from Iraq, Cameroon and Jordan got to know the Nairobi airport very well in November when the Kenyan authorities, cracking down after media reports on other visa irregularities, decided that they should stay at the airport for five days rather than attend the climate change conference!

For more information on the summit: www.africa-union.org.
Link to the summit media plans.