When Americans think of Africa, images of famine
, and war are embedded in their Western minds. AIDS, tribal warfare, and chaos are the associative key terms that remain in their thoughts. These negativities about Africa have been carried for generations, so long that even in 2012 these notions have not been fully abandoned.
The negative perceptions of Africa have been fuelled by the Western media who have constantly refused to tell the “happy” story of Africa. This has to stop. It is no longer acceptable for the Western media to carry on this hopeless story on Africa. It is unprofessional and inspired by the colonial master mentality.
Truth, fact, and fairness
are all qualities that have been enshrined in the journalism bible of ethical practice. But when it comes to reporting Africa, all three are quickly abandoned by Western media. This is very immoral and should not be tolerated.
Novelist Chimamanda Adichie
calls Western coverage of Africa “the single story.” This has created a distorted, one-dimensional view — eagerly embraced by the West and also by many Africans themselves — that sees the continent only through a prism of war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption.
The “single story” has fuelled conflict and ultimately undermined African leadership. It has not helped Africa move forward. It has not protected the vulnerable, cured the sick, and educated the illiterate or ended conflict. The failure to represent Africa fairly has reinforced Western prejudices and deflected international development efforts from what should have been their core objectives. Africans have become passive recipients of often counterproductive aid
instead of active participants in positive change.
The majority of the American population has never visited Africa and most likely will not. Therefore, any information that is received about Africa is taken for granted, as there are no means for contestation.
Most Americans soak up the knowledge presented to them, without questioning its credibility. It is left up to the media to portray what they deem to be facts, accurate portrayals, and interpretation.
As the public has no frame of reference on which to contest these inaccuracies, these images are compared to those of their own Western culture, with the most advanced economies, technologies, standards, and values.
Riveting news of war, crime, sickness, corruption, and poverty flood the headlines. Stories that catch the public eye are what sell. Narratives on ways of life, working, religious beliefs, and cultural festivals are not considered exciting enough to capture the American public.
To borrow the words of Mariéme Jamme, the co-founder of Africa Gathering
, “there is no single story of Africa or any African country. Although serious problems remain that need to be tackled head-on and reported accurately, Africa also needs to be given credit for the exciting advances being made in terms of progressive leadership, social entrepreneurship, innovation and technology, health and the arts.”
These positive narratives need to be heard loud and clear both inside and outside the continent.