*For far too long, a majority of Africans have been indifferent to misrepresentations about who they are. They have remained objects of the ill-informed caricatures of a once glorious heritage disfigured by colonial and post-colonial predators* Chido Nwangwu
*Africa is a place where the outsider is forever welcome. In the hardest of times and in the most desolate of places, I have been greeted with a warm hand and an open heart* Alagiah
The above two quotations show the competing narrative on both the positive and negative portrayal of Africa by outsiders. As Africa is being portrayed in bad light we are forced to reconsider Tonnie’s famous thesis that the struggle to define and influence public opinion is a distinctive feature of modern societies. From the onset I should make it explicitly clear that I am not writing this article from a Pan-Africanist perspective. What I am attempting to do is to put the debate on/about Africa in a proper perspective. Many at times Africa is in the media for the wrong reasons. The international media seem to be pre-occupied with reporting the negative Africa. Does this mean there is nothing positive and worth emulating in Africa? The answer is an outright No.
The international media seem to forget that Africa is the warehouse that drives their industrialized economies. Africa is home to vast amounts of raw materials that China, USA and other developed countries badly need. Regrettably, many at times we still hear the derogatory term that Africa is a ‘dark continent’. One may ask how dark is it? What makes it dark, is it the pigment (colour and skin) of its inhabitants that make it a dark continent? Some have even gone into an ignorance overdrive of asking whether Africa is one country. But what they forget to write is the fact that Africa is bailing their economies in the post financial recession which gripped many countries in the developed world.
Of course in Africa, we have had our own fair share of challenges just like in any other continent. We had some seasons of ethnic violence, genocide, wars, military rule, coups, civil strife, then came the era of one partyism (one party state). However, we are still facing the challenge of long incumbents who cling to power at all costs. Omar Bongo from Gabon who has been in power since 1967,so is Obiang Nguema Mbasongo –Equatorial Guinea who has been in power since 1979.Paul Biya Cameroon who has been in power since 1982 the list is endless. But that does not mean that all is bad in African politics. The recent 2012 presidential elections in Ghana can testify to the fact that we as Africans we are also capable of holding free and fair periodic and democratic elections. This runs contrary to the negative portrayal of Africa as a place were elections are always violent, bloody and rigged. However, we should also not run away from the very fact that most African elections are characterized by violence, frog marching, rigging and other electoral irregularities. But that does not mean that all elections in Africa are a farce.
Baffour Ankomah a pan-Africanist and writer in 2008 writing in New Africa Magazine wrote that
Language is perhaps the most crucial battleground. Noble words such as ‘democracy’, ‘liberation’, ‘freedom’ and ‘reform’ have been emptied of their meaning and refilled by the enemies of those concepts. How many people know that, in revenge for 3 000 innocent lives taken on 11 September 2001, up to 20 000 innocent people died in Afghanistan.
The above quotation clearly shows how the international media (western media) in particular massage facts and events. This hypocrisy also shows how Africa has been on the receiving end of such bad publicity. Whilst in actual fact she is not the only continent suffering from instability. To this end, it is the task of us Africans to teach the world about our people, culture, history and politics. Countries such as Zimbabwe has gone to an extend of re-branding Zimbabwe under the Buy Zimbabwe Campaign. Such efforts help in showing the positive and good side of Africa.
For years there seem to be a long held perception of Africans as victims and not victors. It is worth quoting Alagiah at length here
For most people who get their view of the world from T.V, Africa is a faraway place where good people go hungry, bad people run government, and chaos and anarchy are the norm.
To put it differently in Biekart’s (1999) words many citizens from the North seem to be convinced by the images of children in the South (either crying or laughing) central to private aid advertising and televised charity campaigns that the crisis is still out there and not yet resolved. The question in the offing is for how long will Africa continue to be portrayed in a more negative way? Is there nothing positive to portray about Africa, one may wonder. It is high time Africa rise as one giant. It is time for her people to re-brand and portray Africa as progressive continent just like any other continent be it Latin America, Asia, South America, North America etc. In the words of Ben Okri there are three Africas. The one that we see every day; the one that they write about and the real magical Africa that we don’t see unfolding through all the difficulties of our time, like a quiet miracle. Thabo Mbeki also asks tough questions on who will define Africa. I believe the button is upon us all to re-define our own beloved continent. Let me end by quoting my favorite author who reminds us that,
We are the Miracles that God made, to taste the bitter fruit of time, we are precious and one day our suffering will turn into the wonders of the earth…Ben Okri