I'm a Ugandan writer and blogger. I have always felt sad that the African narrative is dictated by foreigners, that we are taught another man's perspective. I therefore write to give the reader what I believe is the real African story.
For as long as the records have been written and shared worldwide, the African narrative is mainly that of the perspective of foreigners. During the great age of European exploration, the European discoveries shaped how the African interior was depicted to a wider global community, especially the European powers that used this information to aid colonialism. The traditional African stories, which were told mainly by oral tradition from generation to generation, were primarily disregarded, especially with the advent of formal education. Worse still, most of the African traditional artifacts that were a treasure trove of African tradition were stolen, making Africa the continent with the most ancient artifacts outside its original continent. Most analysts suggest that oral tradition isn’t a viable way of storing information. The early Europeans somewhat told the real African narrative because the native Africans couldn’t write and store their history for others to see.
Although this is true for most African communities, it’s not a definitive overview of the African state of affairs then. There is evidence of written artworks in sub-Saharan Africa that tell a narrative, such as the various rock paintings. Ethiopia, for instance, has kept its language, its calendar, culture and above all, a language with its definite characters, a true example of a tradition well maintained and a story well preserved. Being the cradle of humanity, Africa truly has a vast history and story to share with the world.
Fast forward to the present day, and the presentation of the African narrative is presented depending on who pulls the strings. Africa is one of the few places on earth without a single homegrown – home-based, home-owned multi-national news agency serving the continent’s interests. Although exceptions can be made for agencies like AFRI news, they are foreign-owned. Many multinational news agencies such as BBC (U.K), CNN( U.S), CGTN (CHINA), WION( INDIA), FRANCE 24( FRENCH), DW( GERMANY, / E.U), Aljazeera (Qatar) all have some special African editions with African correspondents and for some, offices on the continent. Among those listed, the agency with a strong African presence and direction is the BBC, with its many African based programs both on radio and online such as a focus on Africa, that have been running since the 1960s. However good and African based it seems, the narrative in most cases seems to suit the taxpayers from which they source their funding. The Ethiopian crisis is a case in point; the Ethiopian government alleged that the rebels were foreign-backed, especially by the U.S. This was more evident by how the conflict was portrayed by American news agencies such as CNN. CNN has however denied these allegations. Another case in point is the Libyan conflict of 2011, where NATO was lodging a campaign against the Ghaddafi regime. The news sites from the anti-government coalition, including Aljazeera Qatar, were primarily reporting a narrative supporting the victorious rebels, a move that angered many pan Africanists that supported Ghaddafi. The gist of the issue is simple in most cases, CNN will push the American perspective on Africa, CGTN the Chinese, WION the Indian and France 24, the French.
But not all hope is lost; there is a perfect way to share the actual narrative.
The Rise Of The Digital Age And Its Impact On The African Narrative.
Africa has the youngest population globally, which means the current generation is more tech-savvy and active online than ever before. Therefore according to a survey done by the university of cape town, most young people who were selected on the continent access their news either on social media or online news platforms compared to traditional television or radio. This means that online is the new frontier for journalism, and without its specific restrictions, it also serves as an example for independent storytelling. Digital journalism gives the power, especially the youth, to share their own stories as they want them to be rightly shared. The beauty of all this is that you shouldn’t necessarily be a journalist; you should instead be a person equipped with your phone, laptop and the right facts to share your narrative. The best example of digital journalism was the 2019 Sudan protests that ousted long time leader Bashir. The youth shared their political struggle on social media and other online platforms, thus giving the world a great insight into their political struggle. This, if government restrictions were to be neglected, it provided access to major international news agencies that were relying on scanty information or rather would have provided analysts judging by the various “African political researchers” who are usually foreigners that they bring to their shows. The digital revolution gives critical stories much needed attention and sheds light on upcoming personalities that are changing the continent.
During this current information age, the issue of fake news and what’s authentic and unreal is a big issue. This is an ever-recurring issue that various technology companies and media outlets have addressed. To be fair, strides have been made in this area, and news from sources is usually verified before being posted on official news sites. However, some critics will argue that the censorship by some of these platforms in the form of blocking selected media pages such as government pages in the case of Uganda and Ethiopia seems to be limiting media freedom.
However, just like China, which created its tech ecosystem through native apps such as WeChat, Weibo, it’s time the African youth create native African platforms that can aid in the digital media revolution and aid in the narrative of African solutions to African problems.