(AND HOW MEDIA IS FEEDING US LIMITED AND/OR WRONG INFORMATION)
So, this is officially my 7th year in Nigeria. The more people I tell I live here, and the more I talk to people about this subject, the clearer it gets how much the media and the internet are feeding us with false images and information about African countries, and how little we actually know about this continent.
Don’t get me wrong, I was also guilty of this before I moved to Nigeria. That’s why I feel the need to talk about it.
The media is not giving us proper information. It is a FACT. The reason? I will not discuss it this way, as there are a lot of politics involved, and I am trying to keep politics and emotions out of my blog, to be able to provide more facts.
Although I’ve written about this topic before, on several occasions, very briefly, I think it’s time to elaborate a bit more on the subject. Here are some of the main “beliefs” about African countries that I have heard and that are the product of bad information in the media.
1. “I WANT TO GO TO AFRICA.”
How many times have I heard this sentence? Media gives us very monotonous images of the African continent, making us believe it is all the same. Far from it! Like every other continent, Africa is extremely diverse and there are so many different nations, people, cultures and geographical concepts.
It would be like putting Russia, India, Afghanistan, and China in one basket, right?
Morocco is in Africa. Tunisia is in Africa. Nigeria is in Africa. South Africa is in Africa. Seychelles are in Africa! Do you know how different these countries are in every possible way?
Making Africa look like one country, media also made us think :
2. AFRICA IS ONE BIG SAFARI
While some countries are blessed with beautiful wildlife and safaris, please don’t think that giraffes and elephants are walking around anywhere you go in “Africa”. Nigeria has only one safari that I know of, and it is far from the images of safari in Kenya or Tanzania that we constantly see on Travel blogs.
I’ve been here for seven years now, and apart from the lizards, rats, cows, and snakes, I don’t think I’ve seen other animals. Oh yes, I did: goats!
Believing that Safaris are the only beautiful thing in Africa is wrong. African countries have so much more to offer! The African continent has beautiful waterfalls, sandy beaches, deserts, but also snowy mountains and tropical forests and so much more. Every African country was blessed with some magical gift from nature.
3. IN AFRICAN COUNTRIES PEOPLE ARE STARVING AND ARE LIVING IN HUTS AND MUD
While the poverty rates in African countries are high, this number is declining every year.
Moreover, African countries have the fastest growing economies, which cannot be said for Western economies that have been in crisis for years.
Most people live modestly, but it is far from living in the mud, being thin and starving. I am not saying that there are not cases like this, but NOT IN ALL AFRICAN COUNTRIES!
Pictures of starving children and people that are so often present in the media and social media, are taken in the African countries that have been or still are in wars, or in some abandoned rural parts. And let us be honest, no country that has been or is in the war looks great.
African cities are extremely modern and many have better and nicer roads than some places in Europe or in the USA for that matter. African cities have skyscrapers, modern buildings, shopping malls, large hotels, the latest technology and cars, museums and galleries, just about everything there is in the west.
4. WESTERN CHARITABLE ORGANIZATIONS ARE SAVING AFRICA
This also a very serious issue. This is the impression that Western countries want the whole world to have. This is not true. The next time a “big organization” asks you to donate money for “African children”, please don’t feel bad to revert your donation to hungry children in your country. What the media is telling us is far from the truth.
Let me start with Nigeria.
Wealthy Nigerians are helping the poor in Nigeria way more than any “western organization”. Many Nigerians will bring white people to assist for different reasons, but as far as money is concerned, it is Nigerian money that is helping Nigerian people.
Let me give you some examples:
1. Every poor and/or underdeveloped village or community in Nigeria has at least one person who has left that village and became successful in other big cities in Nigeria or other countries. These successful Nigerians GIVE SO MUCH to their villages, that no Western organization can match them. They build schools, institutions, bring electricity, water, pay school fees, or simply give money to people living there even if they barely know them.
2. Wealthy Nigerians do not only support their own children but often they are financially taking care of their entire extended families (which can often contain more than 50 members)
3. Akon, the famous singer, has sponsored solar energy for millions of people in his country. Many other African public figures have built schools, orphanages, donated money for different causes and the like.
But the media likes to show us how the “white man” saves the world. Of course, I will never undermine the work that western organizations or just white people, in general, are doing. However big or small it is what we are doing for others, it makes a big difference.
White people should help if they can. It is not my goal to undermine or talk bad about anyone’s effort.
My point is- white people are not the only ones helping. African people DO WAY MORE, and that’s what the media doesn’t tell us.
5. AFRICAN ORPHANS NEED TO BE ADOPTED
AFRICAN COUNTRIES ARE NOT EVEN IN THE TOP TEN COUNTRIES WITH THE HIGHEST NUMBER OF ORPHANS IN ORPHANAGES !!! There is a difference between orphans and orphans that are on the streets. Please do the research. And here, I am talking about children in the actual orphanages or on the street.
While there are many children without parents in African countries, the number of them in orphanages and on the streets is far lower! We should all know this!
We are constantly being shown pictures of celebrities or famous people adopting African orphans as if it has become a trend.
The things are so much different here than you think. Please have in mind – African families are large! In Nigeria, for example, it is their culture that if a child’s parents die, or can’t take care of that child for other reason, no matter how rich or poor the family is, SOMEONE IN THE FAMILY WILL TAKE THE CHILD IN AND RAISE IT! Whether it’s an aunt, uncle, or very distant relative, given the size of families in Nigeria, a child will most likely not end up on the street.
So if you want to adopt a child, you can do it in your own country, without feeling pity for “African orphans”.
6. KIDNAPPING AND TERRORIST ATTACKS
One thing the media loves to write about:
“__________ (COUNTRY OF ORIGIN OF A WHITE MAN) KIDNAPPED IN _________ (AFRICAN COUNTRY)”.
Yes, it does happen. But kidnappers also kidnap their fellow citizens, much more often than they kidnap white people. Of course, it is more interesting for us to hear about white people being abducted. Also, kidnapping in African countries happens just as often as in other countries. It is a fact.
As far as terrorist attacks are concerned, they exist, and they happen on annual basis less often than mass shootings in America, or terrorist attacks in the Middle East, or street shootings in Mexico or Serbia.
7. EVERYONE IN AFRICA IS UNEDUCATED AND NOTHING EVER HAPPENS HERE
Here is some real information:
– While there is still a lot to do with the educational system, especially outside of the major cities, there are many excellent schools and universities all around the continent.
– Most Africans speak at least two languages, if not more.
– People in Africa are making arts that cannot be matched to any other kind of arts anywhere. From music to dance, to theaters and movies, but also to painting, sculpture, the creation of wooden, clay and other types of objects … Whatever African country you go to, you will probably see works of arts that cannot be compared with anything you’ve ever seen before.
– Modern technology is highly developed; most people have “smartphones”, fast internet and cable TV; they drive the newest cars; they wear fashionable clothes; the kind of houses that you can see here you cannot even see in Hollywood.
– Speaking of Hollywood, do you know that Nollywood (Nigerian Film Production) produces more movies in a year than the said Hollywood?
-The parties and nightlife are phenomenal here (level of nightlife in Belgrade or Miami)…
There is much more that we think about Africa that is wrong, but these are the main things that are currently on my mind. If you think of something I did not mention, feel free to write in the comments section.