You know it’s amazing. Why do people (particularly the West) talk of Africa as if it is one big amorphous mass — the same thing. Why is it that references to Africa are all about war, famine, poverty? Being in London at the We Media conference… this appears to be Westerners’ sole way to relate to Africa.
Jeffrey Sachs is an amazing man. He is a great humanitarian and does alot of good for people in Africa. But why did his speech make me so angry. Why does he not contextualise what he is saying about Africa. As an African at a media innovation conference, I have to sit here and hear this man talk about how terrible this continent is, without balancing it with the very many success stories or contextualising it. He is running my continent down. He is reasserting stereotypes of Africa as a basket case continent by saying this. In many ways although his speech was heartfelt and had the best intentions, but I also found it dangerously paternalistic.
I am not sure how appropriate it was to have Sachs speaking at this conference, a media innovation conference. Maybe that was the problem. Instead of us talking about the positives and pitfalls about new media, internet and blogging in Africa, basically the old worn stereotype of war and famine in Africa were raised by virtue of Sachs’ speech. Wilfred Kiboro, the CEO of Kenya’s multinational The Nation Group who was on the same panel, agreed with me. He was particularly incensed at the pictures that came up introducing our speech — the usual fare of starving children and pictures of animals.
Also stop talking about “Africa” as if its one thing. It is a vast place of more than 50 countries with more than a billion people. There are vast differences between north and South Africa. There are Africans of all religions and there are black and white africans.
I don’t deny there are problems. Big problems in some countries. But is this all Africa is known for? Some countries in Africa are very successful. Is this how the West relates to our continent. Do they know that South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that has sent someone to space (our own Afronaught Mark Shuttleworth)??? Does the US realise that Paypal was invented by a South African, as was Kreepy Krauly — the pool cleaner??? i could go on with countless examples but a great overwhelming wave of tiredness is sweeping over me. It happens whenever I discuss this topic.
I’ve realised more so than ever before: We are fighting an information war.