What comes to mind when you are to tell the African story? How do you tell the African story to gain recognition or applauds?
Today, I decided to travel back into time, the days we used to tell the African story when we gathered at the Centre of the compound house my dad used to sell “akpeteshie” the local “whisky”. I remember when we would talk about the old witch, the poor widow, the abused father, the little thief and about the greedy Kwaku Ananse. Our characters were mainly the people in our community. We focused on the wrong because it was our source of knowledge about our society. Even in our little play what we term as “mama ne dada”, my assumed family was always poor or I would sell roasted plantain and my friends whose parents were a bit rich would play the role of the wealthy family. Speaking the local dialect meant poverty so the rich families in our little play were English speaking families. This was our believe. All we knew about our society were Poverty, witchcraft, greediness, hatred, abuse, inferiority and conflict because we witnessed it severally among families and tenants.
I grew up with the singe story about myself and my society. I lacked self-esteem because I felt I wasn’t a part of the class the world was looking for. I couldn’t recognize the magic my brain could do because I believed in the single story.
This is how the African story is told today. The means of storytelling is incomplete and stereotyped. Our beautiful continent is now termed as “Dark” because of the report on conflict, poverty, famine, diseases in some African countries giving an impression that African countries are homogenous. Yet no one will associate violence in East Tomor, Syria and elsewhere with Asia.
Sadly, Africa is seen as a country not the continent with about fifty-four countries and is assumed to have one language when they have no idea about the more than two thousand languages. US, Japan, China, Europe when combined cannot fit into Africa.
HOW THEN DO WE NARRATE THE AFRICAN STORY IN A MORE BALANCED WAY.
Chimamanda Adichie a Nigerian writer said her American roommate was shocked when she said she learned to speak English in Nigeria and that it’s an official language. Her roommate assumed she did not know how to use a stove .She had a single story of catastrophe, uncivilization and poverty. All her roommate knew about Africa were from the popular Images, the place of beautiful landscapes, people fighting senseless wars, dying of poverty, people who are unable to speak for themselves, waiting to be saved by some white foreigners.
Who says there is no poverty in US! Who says all the children in Europe are all in school! Who says there are no conflicts in Denmark or the Netherlands!
Who says you won’t find Big man politics in developed countries. People are struggling to get access to water, a basic necessity in Angola.
Why are these not the told stories?
The late Komla Dumor was on the edge of balancing the African story when he had the opportunity to work with an international media(the BBC) but death took away his great vision. May his soul continue to rest in peace.(A moment of silence)
WHAT ARE WE DOING AS MEDIA PRACTITIONERS IN CHANGING THE UNBALANCED STORY?
Many African news outlets focus on western movie, music, news, making it the dominant narratives. And when it’s about telling the African story, the media focus mainly on negative occurrence. African media relies on foreign based international news to tell stories about other African countries, spreading misleading narratives. Today, journalism is about bad news. When a bus from Accra to Kumasi lands safely is no news but a bus involving is an accident is news. Yes one will argue that it is a news value but it is equally having negative repercussions on the continent because it has become the widely accessible source of knowledge. Most of the documentaries I have watched on BBC about Africa were about wars, famine, Migration, illiteracy, massacre.
A FEW INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT AFRICA
Africa continent has the second largest population in the world.
The oldest human remains ever discovered were found in Ethiopia.
The longest river in the world, the Nile, is located in Africa.
Africa has the world’s largest dessert, the Sahara, which is almost the size of the United States.
Mountain Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain on the continent.
Its towers over 19,300 feet which are so tall that glaciers can be found at its summit even though the mountain is near the equator.
Madagascar the largest Island in Africa is the fourth largest island in the world.
A plateau called Witwatersrand in South Africa has produced half of gold ever mined on Earth.
South Africa is the 24th most populated nation on earth and 25th largest country on Earth
Jome Kenyatta became prime minister of independent Kenya. It was under his eye Kenya saw economic growth.
Ms.Johnson-Sirleaf was the first female president in Liberia and became a high ranking economist for Citibank.
Julius Nyerere has made a lot of history is Africa. He was the first president for Tanzania. He also became the president of the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU) to fight for independence from the British.
Africa has richest people. The likes of Mohammed Mansour from Egypt whose net worth is $2.7B.His company is the largest general motor dealer in the world.
Issad Rebrab’s net worth is $3.2B, CEO of Cevital Algeria’s biggest privately held conglomerate. It’s one of the world’s largest sugar refineries.
Naguib Sawiris is benevolent. He offered to purchase an island from Italy or Greece to host refugees fleeing from the conflict in Syria but both countries denied his offer. His net worth is $3.7B. He has gold mining companies based out of other part of Africa as well as Australia and Canada.
Mike Adenuga oversees the second largest mobile phone operator in Nigeria called Gloacom.The communication company reaches Ghana and Benin. He has also established real estate firm. His net is worth $5.8B
In 2018, three Africans were ranked among World’s 50 greatest leaders in fortune magazine’s fifth annual list of individuals who are transforming the world. This is just a gist. Read more on it.
Africa is made up of great people like Wangari Maathai an Environmentalist in Kenya, Chinua Achebe a Novelist in Nigeria, Kofi Annan the first African to be elected from the ranks of UN staff, John Garang De Mabior a liberator from South Sudan, his great effort saw South Sudan gain Independence.
It is dangerous to focus solely on a single story. It’s time we balance the system of telling the African story. If you want to know something relative to African ask an African expert. An African journalist can tell a better story than a foreign journalist.
I have never been to America but I know through the constant narrative that America is a beautiful country, free of conflicts, poverty, and illiteracy and with a higher HDI. This is my single story of the American society.
Today, Globalization has created more platforms and opportunities with the creation of new media and technologies which are not bound by time and space.
African countries have beautiful cultures; it can become the global consumer culture.
Malcalm X once said:
“The media is the most powerful entity on Earth.They have the power to make the innocent guilty and make the guilty innocent,and that’s the power.Because they control the minds of the massess”.
Let’s challenge the concept of the single story.
Africa has risen, let’s make it better.
Enough of corruption and big man politics