The discussion as to whether or not it is time for Africa to have her own large, well respected media house has been ramping up over the last few weeks.
The idea fueling the discussion is that Africa needs to begin telling her own stories to ensure that the information captured shares the full picture without any biases or preconceived notions.
For a long time, the continent has been portrayed as one of darkness. This reference often related to not only the skin colour of the majority of the people but also to the levels of poverty, hardship, corruption and hopelessness which defined the region in the past.
Today’s Africa is not the one that many of us read about in books and saw on TV shows a few years back.
Today’s Africa is not primarily a place for which Western artistes get together and make music; the proceeds from which are used to help starving children stay alive. Children who spend their days being hungry and who are too emaciated to fan the buzzing flies from their face.
But in the minds of many who have never visited the region, Africa is still the dark continent.
The idea that one can drive around the streets of Kigali on properly paved roads and go running at sun-up with little worry for safety or that in Kenya there are innovation hubs promoting ICT as a means through which young people can create wealth does not make for hot-selling journalism about the continent.
As such, many outside of the continent do not know of such progress. Wars, genocide, corruption or a government refusing to accept the Western version of democracy make for better news coverage.
However, Africa is now a new kind of frontier with new kinds of stories to be told and the new stories outweigh the old ones.
There are countries on the continent from which journalists primarily report on what is wrong with the people of the country, their systems as well as their way of being.
But the news of how global multi-national corporations are taking all the resources are only covered through boutique docufilms with small audiences. Global news agencies such as CNN and BBC now each have at least one feature episode per week focusing on the good coming out of Africa.
This is a good start but the need for more is blatantly obvious.
Why must others be the curator of the history of Africa? Why must little boys and girls across Africa not see more people looking like themselves telling them about their homeland? Why should others decide what is important news from a continent that they often fly into to cover a story then leave shortly thereafter?
How can outsiders truly get a handle on the nuances and the intricacies of the African storyline?
The reality is though, that to have a media house for Africa, run by Africans, means having:
● Capital to be used to attract and nurture talent as well as to develop content of high standard;
● Changes to laws and practices across the continent which stifle freedom of expression;
- Far reaching access to reliable internet connectivity;
● A greater focus on producing larger numbers of school graduates who are highly educated and have the acumen to discover and interpret complex information.
In addition to what is required to get the concept off the ground and running, there are some pitfalls which need to be at the forefront of our minds. This includes putting aside jealousies and grievances between countries and among ethnic groups.
This is easier said than done but need to be addressed as the elephant in the room if the idea of Africa telling its own story is to happen. Governments also need to view the media as a development partner instead of as an adversary which needs to be controlled or corralled.
If this understanding is reached then a peaceful coexistence between governments and the media will lead to a trustworthy partnership towards telling the story of a region that for too long has been dictated to and robbed of its dignity and resources.
Maybe when that happens we will see less trappings of the colonisers and more pride in that which is truly African.
The birth of a truly pan-African media house is not impossible and the time is now so let us begin to sow the seeds.
The views expressed in this article are of the author.