KAMPALA —What is the African story? I am extremely skeptical that western media can tell the African story. This narrative is one of the biggest fallacies of our time. We African journalists seeking to gain validation and awards from western media and their system of hegemony are actually not telling the African story but propagating the same story of Africa that the west has told. The west is smarter.
They now have African journalists in their own voice telling the story of Africa they have been portraying for ages. Anyone who’s attended a pitching session (BBC, CNN, Aljazeera)—I have attended two and had two stories commissioned, will tell you 100% of the stories African journalists are pitching and that get commissioned follow the script of the same stories about Africa that Africans have ferociously accused western media of writing about Africa, to wit; a continent ravaged by corruption, crime, tyranny and hopelessness.
Those are the stories that sell to western media about Africa, even more if they are under the category of investigative journalism. They are the stories that get commissioned by BBC, CNN, Aljazeera. I plead guilty to this. In 2015 I attended a pitching camp in West Africa with 12 other journalists from Africa. 100% of our story pitches were what we exactly accuse western media of—-portraying Africa as a dark continent.
All our stories were on crime, corruption, tyranny in Africa. You’d think Africa is burning! Is that the African story? May be. May be not. What’s true is that western media cannot tell the African story and it is an oxymoron to suggest African journalists can, using western media, tell the African story. On the contrary, China and Chinese media, (and there’s scholarly writing on this) can tell the African story, a story of a continent with challenges that must be understood in their own context and history, but also rising. China is the one capable and that’s demonstrated telling the African story the way Africans would want it told. The other option is for Africans to invest in their own media (such as Turkey, Russia, China, Qatar did). Short of that the narrative of African journalists telling the African story using western media is the biggest joke since Ice cream.
Ivan Okuda is a Ugandan writer and political commentator in Uganda and the East African region