VOICE OF LIBERTY: Africa and the Western Media – Japheth Omojuwa


Most of the time Africa finds itself in the western news only when it fits into a hole that had been created for it or only when it fits a western agenda. A veteran British journalist said at a journalists’ workshop in Abuja: Nigeria only gets in the British media when it is a bad news. Are we saying there are no good news out of Nigeria?

Yesterday on France 24 all one could see was a “criminal” Uhuru Kenyatta who was escaping trial at the Hague and the “crisis” in Togo. These two fit into an age-long box of a “people who cannot do right by themselves except with a helping hand.”

The West pushes the story of an Africa that depends on and continues to need aid, but the reality of the continent shows that the people would be better off with trade.

If we continue to fit Africa into this limiting box of foreign aid, poverty, diseases, criminal dictators, famine etc., we will deprive citizens in the Northern hemisphere of experiencing the true reality of Africa: a continent that is fast changing and evolving as the world’s last frontier of development. We will deprive them of knowing that change is sweeping through the continent and that the continent is fast rising above western stereotypes and agendas.

Today we have special programmes on the major news platforms dedicated to progress in Africa e.g. CNN African Voices and the BBC’s African Dream, a series about successful African entrepreneurs.

Despite these, Kenyans had to create #SomeoneTellCNN on social media to set the record straight against an alarming CNN report about a non-existing “VIOLENCE IN KENYA” flash.

BBC’s “Welcome to Lagos” documentary captured a seamy micro-reality of life in Lagos but it was presented as the norm. It would be fair to have a follow-up “welcome  to Lagos” that depicts a city on the up.

Having said this, a generalization of calling several unique media platforms as “western media” is as guilty of a wrong profiling as a generalization of 54 countries into one reality.

Which reports could be achieved by the African journalists themselves in order for more positive news to reach Europe?

It is not as much as the report as it is about the vessel to take the report to Europe. There are many reports of Africa that reflect a continent on the rise but most of these will remain limited to African audiences:

There is a burgeoning population of young people in Africa who are beginning to show more than enough passive interest in politics and governance.

There is a growing population of Nigerians returning home to Nigeria because unlike before, their homeland in some cases holds a lot more promise than the erstwhile “greener pastures” they sought abroad.

The African diaspora sent home $60 billion in 2012. There certainly has to be a story about how these monies were made. It must have taken a lot of productive activities for the diaspora of a so-called poor continent to generate $60 billion especially when it costs more to send money to Africa than anywhere else.

40% of Africans live in urban centres. It is 45% in China and 30% in India. This shows that there is indeed a growing middle class that is attracting investment in consumer goods and increasingly luxury goods.

 There is a growing culture of Africa enjoying Africa’s culture. Nigerian movies are more popular in some African countries than Hollywood movies. This did not use to be the case.

Diseases and poverty are no longer the norm. There is still hunger just as there is prosperity. All we need is a balanced story that tells the whole African experience rather than an experience that is too lopsided to the left or one too lopsided to the right.

You will never truly know Africa until you see and meet Africa for yourself. As long as we don’t see Africa through the eyes of Africans we will continue to see an illusion of the real Africa.

Culled from Metropole Magazine www.metropole.ng  

Africa must do better with reporting itself says Omojuwa