By Kelechi Deca
Over the weekend, on the sideline of the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington DC, I met with Ministers of Finance, Planning, Coorporation and Development from about 26 African countries.
My message has not changed in the last 10 years; Africa, own your story and tell it. If you don’t, others would do it for you in ways and languages that won’t paint you in appreciable colours.
Not surprising, while many of them understand the importance of owning the narrative, and weaving it to project the positives. Some of them show a level of unpardonable ignorance about an issue of such importance.
We can’t continue like this as a people. The West owe us nothing, even though they contributed immensely to our present state of very downgraded material handicap, but we can’t blame anybody for our intellectual incapacitation in thinking the continent out of this rut. We must take responsibility for where we are now.
A recurring excuse we give for being unable to take control of our narrative is funding. Yes, media is big business, but we’ve not been able to make efforts. There are over a hundred and ten avenues such projects can be funded without losing an arm or leg. But we prefer to waste money on trivialities.
Africa is wasteful. We spend money we do not have to impress people far richer and more comfortable than us, who sneer behind us, at our stupid efforts to impress.
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In the last 20 years of covering international conferences in over 75 countries of the world, one striking feature that has become tradition is the size of delegation of poorer countries. While a delegation from say any European country won’t be more than four, those of Africa usually hits 10 or above. Sometimes, close to 20.
The Europeans usually stay in good four star hotels with discounts, but the Africans will populate premium five star hotels. Yet 90 per cent of the reason Africans attend these meetings is to come and beg for aids, grants etc etc. If I tell you what African civil servants do, and high level lobbying to be included in the list for such jamborees, you’d appreciate why we may continue to remain poor.
Intriguingly, the west designed her development aids in such a way that it benefits them more than the receivers, but the receivers (Africans) do not know this. That is the principal reason the west are against the Chinese formula because it clearly contrasts theirs, in achieving results. But both the west, and China, are comfortable to have Africa as doormat, but Africa does not know.
The absence of an Africa focused media is responsible for not only negative coverages we receive, but also for poor projection of natural, or human disasters within the continent. Coverage helps attract empathy which translates into funding. We blame the west for not giving Cyclone Idai good coverage, yet we fail to ask ourselves what we did.
The west is already saturated with mediums that project their interests. Arabs have Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, China has invested heavily like no other in media with over 10 language transmissions with the CCTV giving birth to the CGTN giving China centric global coverage, South Anericans have the Globo group as anchor. Africa has none.
We should stop moaning about those who do not care about us, or give our challenges adequate soundbites, instead we should own our story, and tell it the way we want, as Chinua Achebe admonished.
*Deca is an International Development Journalist