The African story a myth

By Admin

Added 8th October 2019 10:28 AM

Much as it generally attracted positive reaction, it also ignited the debate on the combustible topic of the existence or non-existence of the African story.

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Much as it generally attracted positive reaction, it also ignited the debate on the combustible topic of the existence or non-existence of the African story.


This debate on whether the African story exists or not is getting tired. It has now started sounding like a pity party by African journalists whining and lamenting about their shortcomings every time the western media does a thorough job.

A few days ago, Ugandan journalist Solomon Serwanja was crowned the BBC news Komla Dumor award winner.

Much as it generally attracted positive reaction, it also ignited the debate on the combustible topic of the existence or non-existence of the African story.  

For a long time, the Western media has been called out by Africans for portraying the continent as a hotbed of scandals and crises – tyranny, corruption, poverty, separatist movements, civil wars, diseases which are all true. And as if to free themselves from criticism, the stories are now told by Africans themselves. Has the narrative changed? No. Are they being arm-twisted or manipulated? Of course not because the stories are factual.

However, the outrage by the continent’s liberals is hard to miss given their claims that imply Western media portray Africa as one huge mess. But even as an insider, if you look objectively, you will see South Sudan, CAR, Somalia, Libya, Cameroun, DRC, Algeria and more than half of the continent is in some sort of political, social or economic turbulence. That is enough sample space for a cocktail of Africa’s problems - the African story.

Critics act like there are a lot of good things –which is true by the way – going on and nothing as bad as the western media put out there. Just days ago they busted a “baby factory” in Nigeria where 19 women were abducted, impregnated and kept there to give birth for the babies to be sold.

That story would simply have passed unnoticed. But when the western media we loath amplified it, suddenly it was news. And let’s be honest, all over the world, media is a business regardless of whether it is state-owned or private. When it bleeds, it sells so no one would run with a story that they clearly know will not create buzz.

We live in a continent where people in the country with all the media available will not have an idea of what is happening in the neighbourhood until the west intervenes with the tool called “investigative journalism.” In some instances, we have been conditioned to accept some of those excesses as normal – bribing the nurse at the public hospital to jump the queue or get medicine, the police to ignore the rape case, our way into schools and Universities. Until the west tells us we can do better, it is very normal.

When Serwanja did the investigative story on drug theft in government hospitals, that was such a huge story but couldn’t our local media have done that? We could have but we lack the financial resources, yes, but most importantly the will to invest in such big feats. Or, the African journalist is not willing to go the distance when they can serve the audience with the mediocre content they are accustomed to which is in tandem with the peanuts they are paid.

Also, the journalism space in Africa is narrow with restrictions and intimidation so we are conditioned to be careful not to step on a few toes like Serwanja did and had a run-in with the authorities. Yet the western media can execute it well without fear or favour and expose the corrupt.

Nobody would have known the corruption in CAF if the western media hadn’t teamed up with Ghanaian journalist Anas Aremeyaw Anas with all the amount of dollars they splashed on referees and kickbacks to top officials as bait. Not forgetting how much Serwanja spent to bust that drug theft racket.

Also, the corrupt in African governments don’t keep their loot in the continent. And because they control the media, you would hardly here about them when they are still in power.

The west we hate get to expose them, and go the extra mile by seizing and auctioning. Last week, Swiss authorities seized and auctioned 25 supercars owned by Teodorin Nguema Obiang, the vice president of Equatorial Guinea where his father, Teodoro Obiang Nguema as president has ruled for 40 years. The cars, among them Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Bentleys and Rolls Royces, fetched about $27m in total. $23m of the proceeds will go to social projects in the poverty-ridden country. International authorities and media had to do it, not local media.

Whenever local media tries, it barely scratches the surface and gives the story airtime of about four minutes because we have to also to show roads that have been commissioned and some refurbished ferries.

The good things you will hear coming out of Africa are infrastructural developments – roads, dams, railways line, natural resource pipelines which do not reflect on the livelihoods of the local indigenous African. Growth figures always look amazing on paper but far different on the ground.

I have heard of the arguments that Africa should take a cue from Asian countries like China and Qatar that have invested in their media and are able to control the narrative. China is perceived to report well about Africa because of its area of engagement with the continent. China is helping Africa largely with infrastructural development so the internal workings of states and the geopolitics of the continent are the least of their interest.

However, the west is mostly involved in providing aid to Africa in the form of food during drought, resettling refugees in times of war, social services like drugs in hospitals in the form of NGOs where the governments have gaps. So, they report what they see and experience hence the approach with hegemony. So, yes, the African story if covered objectively, whether by local or international media does not change. It’s brutal as it gets. Africa had better stop whining and let its journalists get to work!

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