Carlos Lopes, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa has called on African media leaders to “turn a new page and tell the complete and true stories of the African continent.” In a statement delivered at the close of the African Media Leadership Forum that ended Friday, Mr. Lopes extrapolated on the many rich, multiple narratives of the African experience and said, “failure to do so will result in the continuation of negative and derogatory narratives about Africa that are dictated and written mostly by others, but surprisingly sometimes by Africans as well.” He also stressed that Africa’s new narrative must focus on the transformative agenda and the realities of a growing continent.
The Forum was convened in Addis Ababa on the theme, Media and the African Renaissance by 2063 from 6-8 November and brought together key media representatives based in and outside Africa to discuss developments in the industry and address among many issues, media sustainability, media freedom and media capacity.
Mr. Lopes said that Africa has often been portrayed in historical writings as a place of mystery savage wasteland of hideous human culture with no reference to African contribution to the so called age of enlightenment and that the parody and misperceptions about Africa persist. “Many of these beliefs continue to leave an arborous scar on global society; many current scholars, writers and journalists, continue this farce of mislabeling Africa,” he stated.
He told the Forum that despite the almost 100% internet penetration in Europe and America, it is still not unusual for Africa to be perceived only as a place of famine, hunger and wars.
“In eight of the past ten years, Africa has grown faster than East Asia. With 600 million mobile phone users, Africa has overtaken the US, Europe or India in mobile phone penetration and spread,” he said.
He noted that while financial and business media and consulting firms such as The Economist, Financial Times, Business Week, Forbes, or Ernst & Young, Pricewater House Coopers and Boston Consulting Group look at Africa as a business opportunity, their narrative is also with its own nuances and in many instances, without a clear focus on what Africa really is or needs.
He also told the gathering that the African narrative should not put a gloss on Africa’s challenges or make a hyperbole of its opportunities.
“I certainly do not mean we should not write about injustices where it exists or that we should not speak truth to power; I simply ask that African media direct the seekers of knowledge to the right sources, and consciously rebrand our continent,” he stressed and added:“As the narrative of the continent continues to change, we need to be at the forefront of writing, analyzing and recording it, and not just quoting those who observe us from afar – even if they look nice to us.”
Present at the closing were DemekeMekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, William Ruto, Vice-President of the Republic of Kenya, Madame NkosazanaDlaminiZuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and Donald Kaberuka, President of the African Development Bank.