I was listening to BBC Africa Radio today morning. Yes, it’s not my usual but what other option I have when Capital FM decided to bore us to death with that obnoxious hullabaloo they dish us every weekday morning….except for Fridays. Well, there was a debate, of sorts. Views were being sought on the image of the African continent. Our self-portrayal. What the international media paints us as. The answer to that is rather well-known to anyone.
Impoverished, disease-ridden, famine-struck, continuous war and violence, anarchy. A wild land inhabited by illiterate, hungry, charcoal-dark, thick-lipped, rough-haired and uncivilized ‘humans’ who know nothing but hunting and herding. I say ‘humans’, yes, because we can’t escape racism. It’s there, and we no longer have to go beyond our borders to see it (Blame globalization and that ‘global village’ stuff everyone’s talking of nowadays.) Most, if not all, stories and examples of development and positive change in the entire continent are deemed not ‘sensational’ enough to grasp the emotions and attention of the intl. media’s audience. You wonder whether it’s the journalists/correspondents on the ground who shun these breakthroughs. Or maybe their editors, in a bid to seek their promotion from the boring and ever-lucid Africa news-desk, maybe back into the cities where all the magic happens, where the real world-changing stories erupt from. Wall Street, Hong-Kong, London. You name them.
And what caught my ear today morning was one view the moderator of that debate put forward today morning. I liked him by the way, pushing the debate further along, without losing grasp of the topic. Or sensing when the situation was turning a wee bit sensational and thus immediately thrusting it into a totally new dynamic. Such as the young student lawyer from S. Sudan who wanted to go H.A.M about their on-going war. Wish I’d caught his name, the presenter’s that is.
But I digress. The moderator, who now has the misfortuneof being labelled ‘X’ by my uncreative mind, asked a simple question. Drawing parallels between Brazil and the entire African continent as a whole, with reference to the general portrayal of this Latin American economic powerhouse in the international media and in the public view vis-a-vis the same as regards the African continent. Why the difference?
Because the more you think of it, as X put it, there’s not much difference between us. Economies threatened by massive corruption, poverty on an unimaginable scale, unrepressed insecurity where gangs set the law on the street…and behind the scenes, an economy trying to break through all these layers of grime that restrain it’s growth. True or not?
And though I had just woken up, my attention was pricked enough to grasp the proposed answer to this view. Another panellist posited that we are to blame. We, Africans have abdicated our role to promote our respective countries, to hold them up and the light shine upon our good and chase away the dark that we are so infamously known for.
Maybe we are actually, I thought to myself. Remember that time CNN blazed worldwide the ridiculous headline “Violence Breaks out in Kenya” or something along that line when in actual sense it was a terrorist attack? And so a vindicated Kenyan populace armed with the somewhat ‘toothless’ social media in their arms decided to take the war to them? I must say I was part and parcel of this cyber mob, and proud of it. We decide to do what’s right and change what the world/media wrongly decides to portray us as. At the onset, it was all honourably done, demands for an international apology and withdrawal of the statement. Then came in the more-or-less unrefined mob, hurling insults, making rude baseless jokes that did nothing to further the impromptu cause but rather increase their follower count. Most were directed towards DavidMacKenzie, the chief correspondent in Kenya, I think, who had actually, in his own words, stated that he had reported the story accurately and the headline was not his doing. But I got to admit, some were quite funny. It’s social media, it’s never that serious.
But still, isn’t this just what we are viewed as? Unrefined, uncultured, impulsive and sometimes direction-less? Losing track of what we started off to achieve and quickly dipping into sensationalism. Just like the very same MPigs we’re always criticizing, no? We’re more or less the same, worldwide, with these very same characteristics seen in all cultures and countries. But unfortunately for us, (and unlike these so-called refined and civilized countries) with us African countries (Kenya specifically) it happens with the most visible portion of the population, those whose voices can be heard. Those who have the role of changing the direction, of changing the international mentality.
It might be ambitious, but tell me, is it true or not?