Guest post by mGm on Nadia Monsengo’s essay
My thoughts on Africa’s Image Problem
The way they feed on the negativity of Africa is disconcerting. The media only shows negative images of Africa … They take advantage of the negativity of Africa and take advantage of the positive light it shines on them for giving generously.
What an interesting and completely relatable post. Having lived in Australia for more than a decade, I am still surprised and stung by off the cuff remarks such as, “Oh, as an African, you must be used to the heat”; “Do you have tarmac roads?”; “Is your family safe from Ebola/ Al Shabab violence” and …
“But you can’t be African, you aren’t black?!”
Some of these are general ignorance mixed with polite concern. It is the ignorance that I take issue with. During my schooling years, we learned not just about ourselves as a country (Kenya) and a continent (Africa), we also learned our place in the world and about the rest of the world with equal focus.
I feel sorry for those who never learned about other countries and continents so that their view of the world now is rather self centric and skewed. They missed out on so much. African history and current affairs, as Nadia rightly mentions, are overly represented by the negatives, which every corner of this world has some form of.
I take great pride in educating anyone who will listen about the origins and richness of Swahili as a language; about the pioneer microfinancing innovation, M-PESA; about English being one of my first languages and how most people where I am from are trilingual; about the indescribable beauty of Africa; the unsurpassed warmth and comfort of a community-based outlook.
Africa is more than a game-watching destination or a dumping ground for last-season’s-disposable-fashion-disguised-as-charity. I devote considerable time during such conversations to dispelling ignorant myths, most of which are laughable. But real change can only come from two sources: a shift in the media perspective so that it is not all doom and gloom; and a fair and reasonable inclusion of African history, geography, culture and civics (preferably with considerations for the diversity in the same) in mainstream Western education.
Of course, the audience must listen with open mind and heart.
I, for one, am proud of and grateful for the fact that my formative education was undertaken in Africa. I am so much richer and well-rounded for it.