Monday, 03 August 2015 00:00

So Obama Walks into a Bar.....

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Barack Obama's visit to Kenya was a momentous occasion that put Africa in the spotlight.  The President's visit to attend the Entrepreneurial Summit and address the African Union was a significant trip.

Africa is less dependent less on aid now than it did in the past. Whilst aid is diminishing in it's role, investment is having an increasing role.  This will require many African countries to become global partners working in partnership with donor / investment partners, not merely minority shareholders, but rather by generating wealth and creating jobs. Such a partnership will also require that African  nations to play a different role on the global stage and in international affairs (e.g.significance fighting terrorism and climate change) and demand recognition, dignity and respect. 

Africa is not a country but a continent of 54 nations, which in spite of many similarities, differ from one another in many respects.  Despite these vast differences, Africa is often depicted as being homogeneous.

There’s something seemingly simplistic, yet surprisingly informative, about trying to sum up a country, a complex collective of thousands or millions of people, in just a few words.  So what would it be like if each of the 54 states walked into one big bar - with Obama watching?

#IfAfricaWasABar began with a simple question tweeted by writer Siyanda Mohutsiwa from Botswana: “If Africa was a bar, what would you’re country be drinking/doing? “I thought it would be a fun way for Africans to laugh at themselves and each other by putting geopolitics in comedic light,” she says.


She then went on to poke fun at her own country

And that's how the Twitter hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar was born.  Below are some more example tweets across the continent:




In her YouTube video, Mohutsiwa commented that Hashtags like #IfAfricaWasABar, can highlight perceptions that Africans have about each other. She also remarked that given that the African media tends to be focused on individual nations rather than having a Pan African outlook, the hashtag has given Africans the opportunity to learn about and from each other and teach others about Africa. These are important lessons for intra-regional collaboration and unity, that will lead to self-sufficiency, prosperity and growth for Africa.

It's been quite a summer of influential African hashtags, with examples of other hashtags being, #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowsYou and #SomeoneTellCNN.  My personal reflections on these hashtags are that they serve to to showcase brand Africa and the diversity of the African narrative - which has predominantly been presented by mainstream media. The consequences of this has been that the news reported covers such news stories, from ISIS and Boko Haram, to climate change, Ebola, unemployment and growing divisions between income inequalities the “haves” and “have nots”. Whilst these stories are factually correct, they need 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.  The African hashtags have demonstrated that Africans want the narratives to reflect how they see themselves. The rise in the use of social media by Africans is gaining momentum and should be leveraged to re-shape and diversify the African narrative.

In his historic trip to East Africa, President Obama said: " I want to be here because Africa is on the move." Whilst Africa is on the move, 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 this requires a narrative that is reflective of Africans, the continent and one that reports on more complete stories. Only then can the image of Africa, the African brand emerge. 

As a media and communications organisation, AfricaOracle is passionate about providing balanced stories on Sub-Sahara Africa and promoting successful African brands to provide a positive image of brand Africa to re-shape and diversify the African narrative. 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.




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