Sep 27, 2010

A new story

Malawi’s Bingu wa Mutharika gave an interesting speech last week at the UN General Assembly in which he talked about how  the “international media reports on Africa of extreme poverty, widespread endemic diseases and human suffering…they glorify Africa of underdevelopment and hopelessness”. He went on to talk about a new Africa with new hopes and possibilities, and how this story remains largely unheard.

Good on you, Mr Mutharika, for bringing this oft talked about topic to the fore. This is a real issue and must be addressed responsibly. With that said, if African leaders such Mutharika are committed to telling ‘the new story of Africa” the work must begin locally.

  1. Stop stifling independent media. Reporters should be given the freedom to travel across the country and report on issues they feel are relevant to their readers and/or viewers. This should not be censored to get the government spin because it does a real disservice to the stories of the citizenry that need to be told. These stories will vary, be they of human suffering or human triumph – let them be told!

    If used responsibly this freedom could be a means for the local media to gain credibility at home and abroad, and the positives stories you want to see of Africa would have a better chance of being seen by a larger audience.

  2. Encourage cultural exchanges and participation in international trade shows. What better way to show the residents of Wichita, Kansas that not everyone is one empty rice bowl away from hunger in a country like Malawi, than to have university students or working professionals visit that area and share what life is like for them, how things are improving (if they are indeed improving), and what work remains to be done. 

    We are always talking about needing to trade with western countries. But are there any programs that encourage business owners to seek new markets or partnerships through the numerous international trade shows that happen with great frequency? How else will people outside of southern Africa know that Malawi produces some of the best tea and sugar in the world?

  3. Improve your governance. No one is going to take you seriously as long there are lingering problems with deeply entrenched corruption, vote rigging, nepotism at the highest level of government, etc. You can have a 10 percent growth every year for next 20 years, but it’s all meaningless as long as the majority of the country’s citizens continue to languish in poverty while the political elites get fatter and wealthier.  
    There are obviously other areas that can probably help improve the news coverage of African countries, but these are the most obvious that came to my mind. If you can think of others, please share. Perhaps we could even forward them to interested parties. J


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