Western media must wake up and smell the African coffee

A 2014 study by UK company Pressat put journalists at the top of the coffee-addict list.

According to the study, 70 per cent of the respondents admitted their work would be affected without a daily dose of coffee.

The countries that produce the best coffee in the world include Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania.

However, despite being the source of this amazing brew, the stories that come from the journalists in the surveyed countries create the picture that nothing good comes from this part of the coffee-producing world.

When the New York Times (NYT) placed an Ad for its East African bureau chief, a few phrases caught the attention of the Africans who, with social media, now have the tools to defend their continent against the purveyors of gloom.

The NYT wrote: “the ideal candidate should enjoy jumping on the news, be willing to cover conflict, and also be drawn to investigative stories. There is also a chance to delight our readers with unexpected stories of hope and the changing rhythms of life in a rapidly evolving region.”

Right up to this point, the job description sounded pretty standard for a Bureau Chief of any major publication. And then it goes on;

“Our Nairobi bureau chief has a tremendous opportunity to dive into the news and enterprise across a wide range of countries, from the deserts of Sudan and the pirate seas of the horn of Africa, down through the forests and shores of Tanzania,” the ad further reads.

It is this blatant or perhaps ill-informed decision by the NYT to publicly advertise that in 2019 they will be continuing to perpetuate the stereotypes that have historically characterised Western media coverage of Africa that was rather puzzling.

How tone-deaf or arrogant does one have to be to not even try and wrap their centuries-old sentiments in a pretty PR friendly bow?

Many will agree with Kenyan author, Wairumu Nderito, who likened the NYT job description to, a call for a colonial settler.

Western journalism teaches that “if it bleeds, it leads,” right? – probably not.

As Canadian scholar Kenneth Dowler rightly puts it, “it really depends on who is bleeding.”

Clearly, gone are the days when such stereotype reporting of Africa would go unchallenged.

And, with the power of social media, the African twitter army is a formidable force to reckon with.

Adultery and defamation back to parliament

Closer to home, the State Minister for Legal and Constitutional Affairs was in Parliament, last week, working with the MPs to pass revisions on the penal code.

The sticking issues were adultery and defamation. After a long and spirited debate, the Supreme Court made its ruling.

Defamation was decriminalised, except if the subject is the head of state.

And the Head of State promptly threw a wrench in the works, taking issue with the exception. He rightly argued that defamation should be decriminalised, without any exceptions.

Honourable Minister and Banyakubawa MPs, the balls are back in your court and we are looking forward to the outcome of your debates.

Cheers to banana wine

Before we leave parliament, let us toast to a move by the Government to cut taxes on wines and beers.

According to the Minister for Finance, by reducing levies, for producers who use locally-sourced ingredients, we are creating an eco-system of happy campers.

He said sorghum and millet farmers will enjoy the ready market from the makers of frothy brew while the consumers will, hopefully, get to celebrate for just a little less

If anyone should be dancing a happy dance, it ought to be the banana wine industry. 

This is just what is needed to take their product to the next step towards becoming a viable competitor in the cutthroat wine market. To claim the prize, investment in branding, packaging and marketing have to go up the priority list.

To move from a wine-importing country to tapping foreign markets, we need to enrich the product image to eliminate the suspicion that banana wine is of low quality and safety standards.

Let’s go bananas.

The author is a social commentator on topical issues in the region and beyond.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.

@StellaMusoni

musonistella@gmail.com

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