By John Ikani
President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Dr Akinwumi Adesina has advised African Governments and leaders to sensitively use social media platforms as a tool for development, good governance and social change, rather than politicising it.
Adesina gave the advice on Friday while delivering his keynote Address at the 21st NECCI PR roundtable with the theme ‘Social Media, National Security and Social Change: Bridging the Gap for Development in Africa,’ held in Lagos.
The AfDB President in what appears a reaction to the attitude of the Nigerian Government to social media, especially the ban of Twitter, said social media and network society cannot be ignored by governments.
According to him, Social media were excellent platforms for policy makers and public officials to engage with the citizens.
He, however emphasised that information and communication must be “fact based, devoid of propaganda, short and straight to the point, informational, educational, and inspiring”.
What the AfDB President said:
“Every level of government must recognise the power of homegrown, or global social media platforms as strategic instruments for direct communication with the public they serve.
“This should be done in a way that is more consistent with the day-to-day realities of citizens.
“The rise of the “network society” offers those in power a unique opportunity to engage in real-time meaningful dialogues with constituents, involve them in policy making and address genuine grievances, long before they become toxic.
“Whenever I look at the rapid uptake of social media by millions of mobile phone users in Nigeria, I cannot see why communication should not be at the heart of development policies and good governance,” Adesina said.
He further advised governments and leaders in the continent to be more proactive and responsible users of social media space to effectively fight for the hearts and minds of those they are called to serve.
“As such, social media should be utilised sensitively by governments — and not politicised.
“The effective use of social media platforms require clear distinctions between political advertising and public service information and the temptation to blur the lines for political gains.
“Leaders have no choice but to engage with citizens. Citizens now have social platforms to speak, vent and engage in the public sphere.
“Leaders, who are far from their people, no longer have a place to hide. The people are at their gates, daily, with inquiries, views, opinions, vitriol and sometimes sarcasm,” Adesina said.