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The Responsibility of Representation

It is unfortunate that even now, in the 21st century representing Africa in western media is still a problem. Africa is still depicted in popular culture with stereotypical images and videos. Our identity is still being suppressed…what does this remind you of ? 

This reproduced idea of Africa as a huge war zone, potholed roads and a people with their hands extending for aid has become a continuing invitation to a new forms of colonialism. Stories like these are traits of colonialism, it is stories like these that perpetuate the idea that NGO’s too have traits of colonialism.

Remember that we tend to feel better about our lives when we hear others have bigger problems than us, so in other words bad news sells well. It’s not just the media, but in other sphere such as academia, international relations, politics and business. ‘Africa’ seems to hold a certain negative image. While this photo along with others like it are true we need to remember to be sensitive when representing vulnerable others. At the end of the day no representation is going to them justice. 

The idea of being involved with Africa is seen as a ‘good practice’ venture rather than a business related decision, this brings more hindering than progress to our continent and nations. Africa needs to be seen as a place which has stunned the world by having industries, educated people, and investment potential. We are yet to have a microphone of our own on a global stage, no more waiting in line in hopes that others will lend us their eyes and ears from time to time. 

It may be too harsh a statement to say but it is true, every NGO and philanthropist in some way is a coloniser of Africa, nourishing and destroying it simultaneously. Sometime I’m not sure who to be annoyed at western journalist who broadcast embracing videos of poverty in Africa or the African government who tolerates and often creates such misery in the first place. While there are many different, beautiful and often positive stories to be told from Africa’s 54 diverse countries, they need to be told more often, especially by us! Al Jazeera has succeeded in giving Arabs a voice on the global stage. Where is Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera?

Representation may not transform our continent but it can set the stage for economic development that can transform global perceptions about African countries. I feel strongly about how Africa is portrayed especially in western media. After all if we don’t care about our country, how it is being covered, and what stories are being told, who will? 

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