Stop using Africa as a collective noun!!

Africa is a whole continent. It is three times the size of Europe and yet people still refer to the general ‘problem area’ of that part of the world as Africa. So some countries are bad. Some countries are very bad. But does Mugabe’s vicious land reclamation and consequent starving of his people mean all of Africa’s governments act the same way? Do the recent discoveries of mass rape in the DRC demonstrate all of Africa’s inhumanity and violence?

It has become common place to hear phrases such as ‘the problem of Africa…’ or ‘African leaders should concentrate on ….’ But is this the right way to refer to such an extensive land mass, variety of cultures, and variety of targets. Correct me if I’m wrong but Africa as a whole is still portrayed as a place with a number one goal of AID. The images coming from the continent are not so different to the harrowing images used during mass aid campaigns during the famines a few decades ago. These images did their job, and a certain amount of international aid arrived and to some extent I imagine, reached the people it was intended for. However, 20 years and the general public still receives the same message. Corruption, war, poverty, disease. Now we all know not all is rosy on the continent. But is it not time to send out a more true and positive message?

There are 2 problems addressed here. The generalization of ‘Africa’, and the negative images portraying the countries that make up this great continent.

Even if you switch on CNN you will hear the presenters in their ‘diversity advert’ referring to ‘I come from Africa’ or ‘my parents both come from developing countries’..yes! and so what! Tell us which one before we make assumptions and generalizations.  Some countries are economically, politically and socially more stable than others. Some a lot more so. The good examples should encourage the rest to change their attitudes. Nothing is going to happen over night and this is a land mass with countless obstacles but these are obstacles to be faced! The ‘West’ will not change their near neo-colonialism if the continent as a whole still accepts international aid with open and welcome arms. It’s time for strings to be cut. Immediate relief aid and sustainable development are 2 different things and each country should become responsible for their own continuing developement.

The majority of educated people will still panic over what they imagine Africa to be like. Sure, we all have to be P.C and say the right things but the vast majority will still have negative images. It’s to be expected, when every day the news reports feature some new trouble or atrocity from an African country. During the new Kenyan Constitutional celebrations the BBC coverage of Uhuru park featured about 30 seconds of innocent festivities and 3 minutes of flashbacks to the 2007 post-election violence.

Fortunately, there are a lot of positive ground breaking developments taking place. These should be focussed on by  the international press, much as in any developing country there should be a balance of the type of report covered. Of a country is to develop there needs to be foreign investment. There’s no getting around this. But what company will invest in a corrupt, self-doubting, unstable country. From the bottom up things need to change, starting now!

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