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Blog: Five days in Cape Town

By CNN's Femi Oke
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CAPE TOWN, South Africa (CNN) -- CNN's Inside Africa Host, Femi Oke reflects on the week that was the CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the year awards.


CNN's Femi Oke

I am still recovering from spending five wild days in Cape Town. My little black book is bulging with telephone numbers, my phone is suddenly getting some serious action and I have a smile on my face wider than the Drakensberg mountain range!

Now I'm sure you're thinking that I've been very wicked, but I'm just relishing the after-effect of spending a week with some of the best journalists in Africa.

The CNN/Multichoice African Journalist of the year awards can't be fitted into just one night of prize giving, any old competition can do that. This one however, is a week long celebration of African journalism and you need stamina to make it to the end.

On day one the twenty-six finalists toured Cape Town and took in the stunning clouds-eye-view of the city from Table Mountain. Then there was lunch and a tour of the publishing giant Media 24 and just in case we should dare to be hungry again, the evening wound up with a huge African buffet.

This was just the warm up, still to come were media panels, breakfast workshops, field trips, press interviews, show rehearsals and more delicious food than can be found on a luxury cruise liner.

South Africans have a phrase they use whenever life is getting just a little bit too crazy ..."it's hectic" they'll say as they apologize for taking an age to return your call. I'm afraid that I tormented my South African colleagues with this phrase for the entire week.

My most hectic assignment was to try and get to know all the finalists in as short a time as possible.

My trick was to learn a few names and unforgettable facts. Then I'd introduce the journalists to each other. So Selma from Morocco was introduced to Odette from South Africa, who'd brought her entire family including two babies on the trip. Oh yes, and by the way Selma's partner Danielle is British, speaks terrible French but is taking lessons. Mon dieu, two down only twenty four more finalists to get to know.

The mental exercise was worth it; because once we got chatting I realized that the work they had been nominated for was remarkable. Every story I heard I'd be proud to run on "Inside Africa."

The reports ranged from the practice of breast ironing in Cameroon to the little HIV positive Zambian boy, who wondered how he could possibly have AIDS if he'd never had sex before. The originality, enterprise and bravery of the finalists' work was very humbling. They all made me want to be a much better reporter.

Now there are times when my colleagues in journalism aren't exactly free when it comes to sharing information and sources. However, Cape Town was a love-fest.

The Kenyan contingent helped me with a story I was working on for "Inside Africa." Other finalists suggested program ideas, invited me to visit them and offered help for future shoots around Africa. My little black book now boasts an expanded section of new friends and award winning colleagues.

During the lead up to the awards night none of the journalists know if they've actually won. It adds a delicious air of anticipation to the festivities. One of the finalists summed up the experience - "it's like being asked to sit at a table for a week, waiting for your name to be called!"

As I watched the awards show I felt a huge sense of pride for my fellow African journalists being honored. As for CNN and Multichoice if you ever want to put on the best five day party ever, I can highly recommend them.

Just don't tell my boss I spent a week partying with journalists in Cape Town, I told him I was working!


Femi Oke
Inside Africa

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