On the night of 31st December, few realised that the first decade of the millennium had actually come to an end. A good number of people were in church, (just in case Jesus showed up to take the chosen few!)
The eve of 2000 had many people worried about the prospect of computers crashing (Y2K bug). Others believed the world would come to an end! I had no worries since I owned no computer then and didn’t think the world would end that soon.
For some reason I cannot seem to recall where exactly the New Year found me. What I am certain of is that I was largely thinking of how Africa as a brand would perform in the year 2010 on the world media stage.
Africa has perennially been the bad boy of world media with stories of hunger disease and conflict making it to ‘mainstream’ media before anything else.
I am talking about the time when Somalis hijack a ship; Guinean demonstrators are met with live bullets or when Joseph Kony exports his killing sprees to Southern Sudan.
2010 is undoubtedly bound to be an action-packed year for brand Africa. My conviction is much aided by the sad fact that Africa is always perceived as an entity and the differences in cultures on the continent seem not to bother western media practitioners.
Two weeks into the year and the continent already seems to be out of the blocks. The story of the Nigerian Al Qaeda boy who tried to blow up an American plane from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Eve (2009) has spilled over to 2010. Thanks to him, Nigerians flying into US will now endure longer airport searches.
He has single handedly added an African touch to the previously known Arab terrorism. Now Nigeria has joined Somalia, Sudan, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya as African countries that can easily share space in a terrorism-laden sentence or paragraph.
The Middle East terror involving Israel and Palestine will continue to keep its space in international media. Africa’s role here will still be the decisions made by Egypt as far as the closure of its border with the besieged Gaza strip are concerned.
This month’s Orange African Cup of Nations in Angola may not make big headlines on the international scene despite the undisputable fact that apart from Brazil and Argentina, Africa now seems to produce the best pedigree of footballers in the world.
The media focus on this tournament will remain on how it effectively sucks the life out of teams like Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester City, Portsmouth, the French, and Belgian Leagues and to some extent the Spanish and Italian leagues.
The June-July FIFA World Cup in South Africa will be the biggest selling African story for this year. Success of an African team will also go a long way in raising the media statistics for brand Africa.
July will see the East African common market coming into force. However this is not likely to earn much front page space considering the fact that the World Cup in South Africa will have reached the breathtaking stages and thus sucking all the media noses down south.
On the political scene, several elections will be held on the continent. As usual the news spin will not be on who won the election but how it was won.
News of massive rigging, quashed demonstrations, body counts, and disenfranchised voters will be the top stories on channels like CNN, AL Jazeera, BBC, France 24 and Fox news.
The coveted term ‘post-election violence’ (or PEV) that was popularized by the 2007 Kenya general election will make its way back to popular media lexicon.
Countries such as Tanzania (October), Madagascar (October) Burkina Faso (November), Burundi (June), Guinea (January), Togo (February), Somaliland (January) and Rwanda (August) will hold general elections with several others having parliamentary elections in 2010.
July will not only be the month when the final game of the World Cup is played. It will also be the month when the Darfur referendum to decide whether to merge West Darfur, North Darfur and South Darfur into a single autonomous region of Darfur will be held. Earlier on in April, Sudan will hold its presidential and parliamentary elections.
Thanks to the world cup, Africa will get a chance to try and balance the bad coverage with something good. This will largely depend on how South African authorities succeed in keeping its high crime rates in check.
It is sad to note though, that it may prove too much to ask for the criminals to relax at a time when the world comes pouring into SA!
One man is not waiting for the World Cup though; President Zuma recently married once again (for the fifth time). And he is planning to marry another later this year. Go Africa!