Bamako- Mali (PANA) -- "Protecting Consumers in Africa" is taking centre stage this week at a five-day workshop for consumer associations and African media that began here Monday.
The workshop is designed to enhance the capacity of journalists and consumer organisations to provide consumers with adequate information to make sound choices of goods and services.
The seminar, themed "Consumer Protection in Africa -- The Media: A Key Link," is sponsored by Harare-based Consumers International Regional Office in Africa (CI-ROAF) and Deutsche Welle Television Training Centre, with the Consumer Association of Mali serving as host.
Consumers International is a non-profit organisation that seeks to defend the rights of consumers on such issues as patients' rights, the environment, international trade rules and food and product standards.
The seminar is expected to climax on World Consumer Rights Day, 15 March, with the launch of an annual report on the state of Consumer Protection in Africa.
Representatives of media organisations in Africa agreed on the need to educate consumers.
But most presenters lamented that the media lacked the resources and the trained personnel to fulfil that function as consumer associations would like them to do.
They propounded that Africa's high rate of illiteracy -- most of the population neither read nor write in the language used by the media -- posed a major restraint to educating consumers.
Poverty is another fundamental problem that leaves illiterate consumers at the receiving end, forced to buy cheap goods of questionable quality or safety.
Consumer organisations urged journalists to increase their coverage of consumer issues and to maintain "objectivity beyond their consumer instinct" when reporting.
Seminar participants are poised to derive a consensus on networking between partners on the continent to protect African consumers.