Tuesday, 28 July 2015 00:00

Plato's Cave - Changing the perception of Africa

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The above picture depicts Plato's allegory of the cave in which he describes a gathering of people that are chained down to the wall of a cave, and are facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

In the context of the media and the narrative of Africa, the cave represents Africa, the shadows represent how mainstream media depict Africa as a place of famine, poverty, disease and conflict, the prisoners are the people and the philosopher represents, individuals and organisations (like AfricaOracle) who want to go beyond this narrative of Africa and deliver "all the news", present stories of the Africa that mainstream media does not present, thereby reflecting Africa in its entirety.

When the media doesn’t give the public the complete picture, this can lead to cynicism, pessimism, despair and sometimes action. This has been visually illustrated by young Africans who have started a movement on the micro-blogging site Twitter to show that Africa is not desolate continent but there are many other positive sides which will show the diversity present in the continent. Images of Africa are flooding Twitter with scenes of beauty, fashion, landscape, architecture and achievement depicting the aspects of the continent which media do not does show. These images are being shared using hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShows. The hashtag has been used over one hundred thousand times over the past few weeks and is growing.

Just how far international media coverage from reality has been clearly illustrated by the #SomeoneTellCNN hashtag that went viral last week as Twitter users lashed out at CNN’s for their headline that Kenya is a “hotbed of terror” in reference to President Obama’s visit to Kenya.  This headline sparked such a reaction from Kenyans, Africans and Africanists because Obama was visiting Kenya to attend the Global Entrepreneurial Summit. President Obama elevated entrepreneurship to the forefront of the United States’ engagement agenda during a historic speech in Cairo in 2009. Since 2010, when the U.S. hosted the first Summit in Washington, D.C. GES has expanded to a global event, subsequently hosted by the governments of Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia, and Morocco. The 2015 Global Entrepreneurship Summit was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on July 25-26. It was the sixth annual gathering of entrepreneurs at all stages of business development, business leaders, mentors, and high-level government officials. Below is a video of President Obama delivering his speech to the Kenyan people in Nairobi, Kenya. July 26, 2015.

I acknowledge that our world is full of crises, corruption and dysfunction which often results in tragic consequences.  Therefore mainstream media will continue to cover such news stories, from ISIS and Boko Haram, to climate change, Ebola, unemployment and growing divisions between income inequalities the “haves” and “have nots”.  I would say that even these stories needs to be more complete to show how people are responding, reaching out to their neighbours and rising to the occasion to present more human stories.

AfricaOracle’s mission is to provide balanced narratives on Sub-Sahara Africa. We are doing this with our digital magazines on the Flipboard platform and currently, we have over 2,400 followers.  You can support our mission by following our magazines.  Check out AfricaOracle’s portfolio of magazines on Flipboard and Our main magazine is Africa 2020.

From September 2015, we will be collaborating with Kingston University and African journalists to dispel myths, create dialogue and co-create stories that showcase innovative, creative and successful stories of our communities, people, institutions and nations. Thus provide a positive narrative that can inspire us, highlight opportunities for individuals and businesses, catalyse potential solutions to problems and broaden the reach of our audience.

Ultimately, changing and transforming the perception of Africa requires that the continent is seen as part of a “whole” from a worldview (as opposed to than being defined in isolation it’s by events) and that the narrative depicts a whole picture and therefore more complete stories. Only then can the image of Africa, the African brand emerge.


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