ALTERNATIVE AFRICA: The Vision
London, August 17, 2018 (AltAfrica) Last weekend, I was watching a TV station documentary depicting life in the slums of Katanga, Uganda, aired in the context of what was described as a “demographic ticking bomb” facing the east African nation. The documentary was a journalist’s take on UN projections, which forecast an impending population boom in Africa. The number of people on the continent is expected to double from 1 to 2 billion within the next three decades.
Slums of Katanga, Uganda (Photo Credit: Daily Monitor Uganda)
The message was clear: with so many young men coming into the labour market and only a few jobs to go round, conflict, possibly war, is simply a matter of time.
“Does the whole of Africa have this demographic problem?”
My first line of thought was “Why was the focus on the slums and not on the positive stories of improvement in Africa? Why search out the most miserable environments to film in and continue propagating negative stereotypes of Africa as a nest of poverty and problems?”
Lagos - Nigeria (Credit: Africa Business Central)
On the other hand, am I overly defensive in my reaction, one which depicts me to be a hypersensitive African who prefers to imply racial bias rather than address uncomfortable issues? After all, the images of misery I had seen were not fabricated, they were real.
The undeniable fact is that while a population boom would create many additional challenges for African governments, especially in the sphere of social services, a huge labour pool also meant opportunities for rapid economic growth, provided enough jobs are created for the millions of young Africans who will soon be of working age.
For several days after, I shifted blames between white journalists who broadcast embarrassing images of poverty in Africa and the African governments who tolerate and often create such misery in the first place? Much criticism has been leveled at western media for negative coverage of Africa. They have been accused by some of ignorance and racism. In many cases, this criticism is justified.
I also know news media in general (African included), tends to focus on the negative and not the positive. Bad news sells well. People feel better about their lives when they hear others have bigger problems than them. A European who’s unhappy he can’t get a mortgage, will, however unwittingly, likely see his life in brighter lights after watching footage of people with no electricity, no running water and little food to eat.
But why do many Africans, myself included, feel so strongly about how Africa is portrayed in western media? After all, the average Brit or German doesn’t give two hoots how their country is covered in say, Nigerian or Kenyan media. Europeans are not immigrating to Africa in large numbers so they simply don’t need to care how Africans view them.
Read: Hope rises for foreign students, skilled workers from Africa as Britain reviews immigration policy
But Africans, especially those living abroad, fret about the perception of their continent and its inhabitants because their future often depends on the opinions of those in whose country they reside. For instance, I know British passport holders in the UK who keep secret their Nigerian roots at work because of the negative perceptions created by the country’s notorious e-scammers. Also, many African professionals in Europe I have spoken to get exhausted by constantly being underestimated in their workplaces because it is assumed that since they grew up and went to school in a poor, backward environment (as many presume all of Africa is), they can’t know terribly much after all.
As a Nigerian university graduate working in the UK, I tend to strive to exceed expectations and over-perform in my job before I am accorded the same respect. Citizens of other African countries faces the similar challenges where each major news item presenting Africa in a negative light is viewed as something that will make their working lives a bit harder.
Of course there are many different and often positive stories to be told from Africa’s 54 diverse countries. But the continent currently has no microphone of its own on the global stage, no loudspeaker with which to tell its stories the way it wants them told. It has to wait in line hoping others lend it theirs from time to time. That won’t do.
Al Jazeera has succeeded in giving Arabs a voice on the global stage.
Where is Africa’s answer to Al Jazeera?
This is the vision of Alternative Africa.
AlternativeAfrica.com is an independent Pan African News platform dedicated primarily to influencing the negative narratives about Africa. We hope to do this by focusing and showcasing the many developmental strides sweeping across the continent.
Alternative Africa belief that crime and many other vices are global phenomenon and should be characterized and reported as such without been situated as African. This deliberate criminalization of the continent has adversely affected its image and taken toll on inflow of international trade and businesses.
Africa, like all continents of the globe has its share of dubious people who denigrate the name and image of the continent. In spite of our set goals, Alternative Africa will refuse to look away from this dastard act. Through our reporting, we shall vigorously oppose and expose all efforts in any shape and disguise including collaborations that exploit our continent.
In equal manner we shall strive to hold African leaders to account and uncover the truth if those in power hide behind falsehoods. We will continue to sort facts from fictions and duly represent the underrepresented when issues concerning them are ignored.
More importantly we hope to be the POSITIVE VOICE of Africa in the INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.
“Ultimately though, it is only irrefutable and irreversible economic development that can transform global perceptions about African countries. Nothing burnishes reputation quite as quickly as success.”