Africa’s image in the media is often distorted and one-dimensional– war, disease, poverty, starvation and corruption. I’m not pretending that Africa’s many problems should be ignored or downplayed. However, we Africans and the rest of the world need to hear the good news stories as well. Africa is making huge economic strides – a vibrant, varied continent with a growing consumer base. With economic growth averaging nearly 5 percent, about 11 million people a year entering the workforce and a younger, better educated, population than ever before, surely, there are some really positive things coming out of the continent. The continent is seeing unprecedented entrepreneurship numbers, an increase in women participation in STEM and a burgeoning middle class.
Yet these often go unacknowledged. Our inability to control or even influence who tells our stories makes it difficult to challenge and change the negativity that perpetuates in the mainstream script. Africa is a complex continent but this complexity is understated or missed entirely because our stories are so often told out of context and with little regard to the impact on audiences around the world. This ‘single story’ (The failure to represent Africa fairly) has had huge consequences on many African youth.
I feel #TimeIsUp for Africa’s home-grown communicators to own and tell stories out of Africa; to counter dominant stereotypical narratives whether in news and current affairs, advertising or entertainment; to deliberately focus on the unheralded positives; to beat a path for self-respect and command respect from communicators worldwide.
Positive communication can be a vehicle for investor confidence thereby boosting industry, agriculture, education, finance, tourism and other sectors that contribute to a sustainable development. Good news brings hope, inspires people and bolsters commitment. However, isn’t it also possible that even ‘bad news’ told accurately, faithfully and in context can boost confidence when it offers understanding, resolution and not simply hopelessness?
This is why on Friday Africa Day – May 25th, a group of Africa-focused, Africa-inspired people will gather at the British Library to discuss concrete steps needed to begin to move this narrative needle from a predominantly negative outlook to a more positive one.
My organisation, Abjel Communications, in collaboration with Africa Communications Week is hosting a roundtable discussion in London to bring together journalists and communication professionals who cover African stories to have a frank and deliberate discussion on these issues.
The aim is to share ideas, experiences and strategies that might influence the way we work individually and collectively as ‘African reporters’.
If you are in and/or around London around that time and want to help shape Africa’s narrative then this is for you.
Go to our Eventbrite page to register. We look forward to seeing many of you with lots of ideas to share. If you know someone who will find this useful, tag them our forward the event link to them.
It’s our duty as Africans to become ambassadors of our own positive stories. No one will do it for us, especially if it doesn’t serve their interest.