For so long, Africans at home and abroad have condemned the international media for painting a wrong picture of the African continent by paying too much attention to negative stories of hunger, war, disease, poverty, and ignorance.
While to a large degree these concerns are legitimate and worthy of debate, it’s obvious that the so-called “Western media” is not solely to blame for the wrong stereotypes and misconceptions about Africa that continue to spread across the world.
As a matter of fact, the African media bears the greatest responsibility for prolonging and propagating biased perspectives and stereotypes about the African continent.
While it is the duty of every media house to keep its audience informed on the goings-on from around the world, the majority of African journalists seem to be more concerned with international events and hardly give enough airtime to local happenings.
Instead, they would rather bog us down with stories about pointless tweets by U.S. President Donald Trump than talk about a 23-year-old Kenyan man who is changing lives in central Kenya with his hydroelectric power project, which has so far connected more than 70 rural homes to electricity.
They will only mention such a story in passing after a major “Western” media house, such as CNN, BBC, or Al Jazeera, has traveled to Murang’a, a Kenyan rural town, to interview the young man.
It’s about time that Africans asked themselves a hard question: who’s failing who?
In fact, very few African media houses are willing to “cover the continent for the continent.”
One should be forgiven for imagining that these local media houses hardly view Africa as a newsworthy story. It is almost as if they believe the long-held notion that nothing good can come from Africa.
Profit Over Truth
In many African countries, the media is considered an integral part of the often elusive democracy, and many people look to the press to hold their leaders accountable.
Unfortunately, the majority of African media houses have given up on their responsibility of informing the public to pursue profit.
They are willing to suppress the truth in exchange for a few dollars in form of advertisement and personal handouts.
Much of the problem of bad governance and the lack of democracy in Africa is largely due to the African media’s failure in its main role: highlighting the ills of the society.
It is no wonder that the majority of Africans now rely on social media and courageous whistleblowers for factual news.
Even so, we must not forget that most African media houses and journalists operate in hostile environments, dealing with constant intimidation, unwarranted arrests as well as harassment by state agencies.
Nonetheless, this shouldn’t justify the continued suppression and deliberate omission of facts by some African media houses in their reporting.
Indeed, it is time for the African media to ask itself this critical question: If we don’t tell the true Africa story, who will?