Would it be repetitious to say that the whole “we say” “they say” on Africa is a bit over done? No? Okay maybe to some of us then. This picture is circulating around Social Media sites and every Tom, Dick and Harry is applauding the brilliance of such word clouding. Isn’t it nice when we can put Africa in such a nice neat package?
How about we say BOTH! We have tried to package Africa and now we are trying to put a nice bow on top for delivery to the world. The only problem is that Africa is not a neat package. Africans, speaking in general terms, have gotten into the habit of overselling Africa, as if it were a product void of human emotion or interaction. This is particularly the case of Africans in the Diaspora who seem to lack an understanding of this complex picture of Africa. ( on a separate note- can we all agree to take the word Diaspora out of our vocabulary?) – I mean have you ever heard of the Irish Diaspora, the English Diaspora, the French Diaspora? – but that is a topic for another time.
Back to the picture above. We have gotten into the habit of telling the stories of Africa where only the great opportunities and happiness abound. We forget that the Africa on the left is much more a reflection of the Africa on the right. Africa is a land of opportunities, but it also has a lot of problems. These two Africans co-exist! They are one and the same. Be real!
On the other hand, WHO CARES? We are attempting to reframe Africa, to rebrand Africa, to reimage Africa…and the question should really be- WHY DO YOU CARE WHAT THE REST OF THE WORLD IS SAYING ABOUT AFRICA?
If we could spend our energy acting, and no reacting to western perceptions of Africa, we could probably figure out that the rosy picture of Africa does not need to be oversold – because that Africa has always existed before the Economist or Times painted Africa as the “rising” Continent. Africa has ALWAYS been about these two contrasting pictures. This is not new. So for Africans to jump on this bandwagon of reacting on Western Media’s discovery of Africa’s potential is rather disappointing. That is why we are caught up on this whole “telling the African Story”, “Reclaiming the African Story”, “Redefining the African Story”- or any other kind of nonsense that is being spout out there. WHAT IS THIS STORY? What is this African story? and if indeed there is a singular “African Story”, can we agree that it is complex and that no reclaiming, redefining, or retelling of this story will do any good, if we as Africans do not get off our derriere and do something about it? Right now, Africa looks good on paper, but the reality on the ground presents a different picture. A real picture!