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Africa: Changing Perceptions, Making Impact…

Africa is not poor

It is a continent rich with colour, with flavour. It is rich with history, with tradition, rich with the purest minerals and jewels on earth, flowing with incredible produce, reverberating with magical sounds of drums thudding to infectious beats.

Africa Poverty

And yet around the world, the richness of the continent is overshadowed by another perception. Magnified beyond realistic proportion and ran across our screens with relentless regularity, are images of degrading and humiliating quality. Yes, Africa’s dark corners are amongst the darkest in the world. Our core remains rotten and broken from years of yesterday’s slavery, and years of today’s corruption. And yes, poverty strikes colder in Africa than anywhere else. But that is only part of our story. We have so much to give. Images projected by charities which proclaim they are doing us good, may actually be deemed to psychologically be doing more damage to us than those charities realise.

The same media which won’t show images of the dead and wounded Brits over in Afghanistan because they are ‘shocking’ and ‘don’t respect human dignity’, replay images of the lowest of our low with worrying regularity. I can even categorise them for you. The pot-bellied kwashiorkor child being cradled in its mother’s arms, flies swarming uncomfortable like vultures circling an imminent corpse. A child reaching to drink rancid brown water, blissfully unaware of the verminous parasites swimming beneath the surface. Et-cetera. Et-cetera. Same. Same. Aren’t these images just as shocking? Is this showing respect to those who are in desperate need of aid? Or is this just another example of something losing value and impact, the more it is used…

Africa is not poor. Poverty exists worldwide, regardless of the difference in the height of the poverty line as you navigate across the world map. But poverty does not deserve to be our identity.

Media is a powerful tool. And the youth of today are worryingly vulnerable to dancing unconsciously to its beat.

We shouldn’t wait for the Western Media to portray images of Caucasian celebrities visiting the ‘worse-off Ghanaians who cannot fend for themselves’, fortifying subtly the images of the white saviours coming to our wretched shores to show us the light and cause us to be forever indebted to their superiority. We should take the initiative to show ourselves in a better light. To do more for our own.

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There are two kinds of people in Africa, those who can’t make a living regardless of how much they put in, and those who find themselves overwhelmed with privileges regardless of the little they contribute. This balance needs to change – the latter needs to help out the former, and change outside perceptions in the process. We who have been blessed with iPhones and internet access should put it to better use than filling our blogs and timelines with celeb-sensational nonsense and glorifying decrepit behaviour. We’ve got our priorities wrong, whilst day after day we unwittingly remain stationary in the eyes of the watching world because none of our collective energies are put towards creating a better world view and promoting the best of the continent.

A new generation of African who doesn’t just whine about the problems of the continent but rather backs up their complaints with solutions  – especially when it’s within our means to provide and we have been gifted with far more powerful tools of influence than our parents ever had. We can talk about how Africa is portrayed badly in the media – but in today’s world where it doesn’t cost anything to set up a facebook page, and tweets can be sent in seconds, and opinions can be posted on blogs such as this one, we all have the ability to not just talk about sex and raves, but actually utilise our social media powers to rewrite the African Story.

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We can complain until we are blue in the face, and hurl proclaimations about how ‘they never talk about our mansions or show the good side of Ghana’ until Jesus returns. But the key can be found in one of my favourite quotes, uttered by President Barack Obama: ‘Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.’

Africa is not poor.

What are you going to do about that view?

Dr Jermaine Bamfo (@Dr_Jabz27)