Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Africans: Pawns in the Battle?

Last week I listened to a report by Gabriel Gatehouse on BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight. The discussion centred around Uganda, its prospects for economic growth and the rising level of investment from China and Chinese companies. China is now a larger trading partner to Uganda than the UK.

 Mr Gatehouse cited Hilary Clinton's warning about Africa being careful not to allow neocolonialism and used solely for its vast natural resources. He, as so many others have done, fashioned the argument in terms of a clash between the West and China on how to deal with Africa. In fact his opening question was whether or not the battle for Africa was being lost by the West.

 One of the interviewees was the Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina; if you have not read his thoughts on 'How to Write About Africa' you must. He emphasised the growth of Africa as one attributable in part to Africans holding their governments to higher account and demanding better infrastructure. He also mentioned some of the successful technological advancements (Wainaina's home country was the birthplace of Ushahidi ).

Try as he might to shift the argument away from Africa being simply a pawn, talked of in terms of its relationship to possible donors/investors, Mr Gatehouse was not interested. The possibility of a scenario reflecting the Cold War seemed a much more exciting prospect than that of Africa's huge population and natural resources proving pivotal to change on the continent.

 I could feel Wainaina's frustration. It was only a couple of weeks ago that I considered writing a strongly worded letter to the BBC about the fact that they insisted on saying that the King of Spain had been hunting elephants in Africa when they knew full well what country he was in. Yes, it would have been very English of me and made a huge difference. In the end I sent a tweet.

Even more recently during the Olympic opening ceremony the BBC commentators insisted on describing every African country according to how long ago they had had wars or how poor they happened to be, without much mention of the competitors.

Trying to change the narrative about Africa can be like hitting your head against a brick wall.  I strongly believe that until we see Africa differently we can not hope for a more mutually beneficial relationship with the rest of the world.

 Frustration can be a panacea for change and in some part lead me on my own personal journey. I told you all about it in a previous post and I now have another blog that I hope will encourage you to follow me on my journey to find my own way to join in the tremendous positivity and growth that there is on the continent right now.

1 comment:

  1. Sooo true, so true! Been following and having conversations about this recently. You may also enjoy this post by a friend of mine http://mightyafrican.blogspot.com/2012/10/thepowerofwe-shaping-ghanaian-and.html. Just followed you on Twitter with my new media company's handle. Right now keeping things separate so look for a new follower from Zambia. You can see a recent random but profound convo about this with fellow Zambians...