The always insightful giraffe wrote about a talk given by Ory Okolloh awhile back at TED Africa. The talk was interesting as she brought up the very important issue of perception. She was pointing out that because we in the West have a view of Africa as being the horrid, asshole of the world (that’s from Apocalypse Now, not her) type of place that it ultimately fulfills this idea. Watch the video and you’ll see her explain it better than I can summarize because she shows that it is very easy to view the West in just as bad a light as it is Africa.
Curious to expand on this, I took a look at BBC News yesterday as Monday is typically a big news days. I did a screen capture of BBC News – Americas and BBC News – Africa. Now, I happen to like BBC News a great deal as they and Reuters are some of the few large news outlets that really cover Africa with any depth. With that in mind, take a look at the headlines. I did a rough calculation. On the Americas page, about 81% of the articles were good news as compared to 19% bad news. For Africa, it was 80% bad news to 20% good. See a slight issue there?
This portrayal of Africa is unfair. Yes, a lot of bad things happen there like Malaria and the LRA, but there are good things happening there as well, except that you just don’t hear about them as there is seemingly no outlet. It really is easier to report about the bad things and when you report about the bad, it’s easier to sell things, which in this case is the constant need for aid to poor, poor Africa. I’m not saying that African countries don’t need aid, but they don’t need it as it currently is packaged as this system has shown to do very little in the decades since Colonial Rule was ousted in the continent.
Big Media really has little vested interest in showing a different side to Africa. Aid groups also have little interest because despite their altruism, if things don’t look bad, the donations don’t come in and admittedly some aid groups are far, far worse with this than others. This is one of the reasons why we’ve been working to create Maneno.