Changing the African narrative: We have it backwards

Africa Rising. A term featured on famous publications like The economist and Time magazine showcasing the western world’s epiphany towards Africa. It is also another example of the west insisting on telling Africa’s story.

With perspectives advised by documentaries curated by development organisation showing a hungry and impoverished continent in order to raise funds. Overtime Africans especially her youth have become weary of the patronizing narrative that undermines most of what Africa really has to offer.

The youth have also shown a determination to undo some of this damage by changing Africa’s story to a tale of her greatness and potential. However, for any movement to have an outstanding impact, it has got to stem from belief.

Unfortunately, not all Africans believe this story.

After what seems like a century of western influence, the fabric of the African society has been redesigned to match what is not ours. Take for instance the languages we speak, Somehow, we have been discouraged from speaking our local languages and encouraged to speak foreign languages.

As such we look down those that can’t speak these languages. With this we are fostering generations of Africans who will never be able to value their culture because they consider it inferior. Why would one believe in the greatness and potential of a place they perceive to be lesser? To one extent we are all guilty of this.

You may argue that not all Africans look at it this way. Well, I will use the example from our day to day lives. Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies and the most creative minds to date. However, Governments have run campaigns to encourage Africans to buy from local entrepreneurs to very little end.

Many of us are more willing to buy famous brands than locally made products in spite of whether or not they’re better quality. Subconsciously, we have been told those products are better than our own. Almost all products we own are imported and yet we claim to want to change Africa’s story. Are we really being honest with ourselves?

The Award-winning BBC journalist, Komla Dumor (now Late) was once quoted saying this in regards to reclaiming the African narrative. “It’s not so much as what the international media has to say about you, it is what you say about yourself.”

From this we learnt that what we say about our countries whether on stage, via social media platforms or within informal setups also contributes in telling Africa’s story.

Many of us are too busy criticizing our leaders and as such failing to ask the right questions. Growing up at a time when information is ubiquitous we quickly assume that development should happen overnight. It took a country like the United States of America 400 years to get where it is today. When we openly criticize our country or leaders, what message are we sending to the rest of the world?

This is not to say that we shouldn’t voice our concerns where we have any. I believe in first of all understanding that we too have a part to play in the process of development.

Changing the African narrative as told by the west to one truly representative of what Africa is and will become will take a conscious effort by all Africans. We contribute a lot to what the rest of the world knows about Africa.

Therefore, if we focus on the negatives, you are affirming the narrative of the west about Africa. For us to convince the world about Africa we have to start with ourselves. Do we believe what we want to tell the rest of the world?

The author is a social-political commentator.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

Have Your SayLeave a comment