Time for Africa to tell its own narrative

SANF 21 no 06 – by Clarkson Mambo

When the late Kenyan journalist and author, Binyavanga Wainaina published his work of satire in 2005 titled “How to Write About Africa,” his work set some tongues wagging.

This is what he said when he made fun of how the western media and even some of the African newspapers report about Africa:

“Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won the Nobel Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. If you must include an African, make sure you get one in Masai or Zulu or Dogon dress. In your text, treat Africa as if it were one country.”

He did not stop there – adding “whichever angle you take, be sure to leave the strong impression that without your intervention and your important book, Africa is doomed.”

Blunt as he was, Wainaina assertation is still evident today as Africa continues to be portrayed as backward, underdeveloped and strife ridden, yet this is far from reality.

Various reasons have been used to explain this including claims that the western media is advancing this negative line to push an agenda that ensures that the continent continues to falter on its development path, while its rich sponsors continue exploiting the continent’s abundant natural resources.

Others argue that non-governmental and civil society organizations are deliberately projecting a negative narrative for Africa to ensure that they continue to access donor funds.

However, one major reason for the continued one-sided narrative lies in the failure by Africa to tell its own story. For too long, the continent has waited for outsiders to tell its own narrative.

Speaking at the just ended 35th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in early February in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abey Ahmed echoed similar concerns by Wainaina, saying it was now time for Africa to take charge of its own narrative.

He urged African leaders to support the creation of an African Union (AU) Continental Media House, which will tell the African story and address misleading stereotypes.

Prime Minister Ahmed said despite some progress being made by Africa to be well represented in key global organisations such as the United Nations Security Council, it was also imperative that the continent’s media representation be improved on the world stage.

“Africa is often portrayed in the international media negatively. The endless representation as a continent troubled by civil wars, hunger, corruption, greed, disease and poverty is demeaning and dehumanizing and likely driven by a calculated strategy and agenda,” Prime Minister Abbey said in his opening speech.

“The stereotypical and negative media representations of Africa not only disinforms the rest of the world about our continent, but it also shapes the way we see ourselves as Africans. Telling our own stories and shaping our own narratives must be our top priority.”

He proposed that the AU organises the media house “to provide authoritative news and information on our continent, fight disinformation, promote our collective agenda and offer opportunities for Pan African voices to be heard.”

The proposed AU Continental Media House will thus be the channel through which the world gets to hear not only of Africa’s development progress through integration from Cape to Cairo, but will be the stream of all things positive about Africa from innovations and inventions to change drivers that can influence the world.

The media house will help place Africa, as the strategic continent that it is, at the centre of global development.

It will also offer African experts, based in Africa, a chance to chat on the continent’s progress and proffer solutions for its development, as opposed to western based experts on Africa who have never stepped a foot on the continent.

Driving the ideals of Pan Africanism and the vision of an African renaissance will be its focus, as well as coming up with content whose aim is to renew, restore African pride through sharing of cross-cutting cultures, entertainment, religion, unmatched tourist attractions, and other socio-economic activities.

Establishment of the media house will, however, need financial backing and commitment from AU Member States and the private sector on the continent.

Once operational, the AU Continental Media House will go a long way in allowing the 1.4 billion citizens of the continent to be well informed about the benefits and opportunities of belonging to a united Africa, thus ensuring the goals and targets as set out in Agenda 2063 are achieved.

Subtitled “The Africa We Want”, Agenda 2063 is a continental strategic framework adopted by the AU in 2013 to optimize the use of the continent’s resources for the benefit of all Africans.

The plan seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development such as the Abuja Treaty and the Programme for Infrastructural Development in Africa (PIDA).

Some key and flagship projects or initiatives under Agenda 2063 include the establishment of an African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), creation of an African Passport, as well as silencing the guns. sardc.net

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