Join Me & Others on BBC Africa Debate : Africa’s Global Image, Justified or Prejudiced? 27th April 2012, 1900GMT on the BBC World Service

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Thursday, April 19th, 2012

BBC Africa Debate will be debating  Africa’s Global Image: Justified or Prejudiced?  on 27th April 2012 at 1900GMT on the BBC World Service .

 Some people on the streets of New York and Lahore were asked for this programme what came to mind when they thought of Africa. On the one hand, it was poverty, famine, war and disease; on the other, wildlife.  Several referred to Africa as a country.  In the first ten days of April, coverage of the continent in the British press was mostly limited to a military coup and its aftermath in Mali; suicide bombs in Somalia and car bombs in Nigeria; the death of a president and speculation about the ill-health of another, and an escalation of fighting between the two Sudans.

Unfortunately  not everyone is aware of content that showcases the Culture, Lifestyle, Music and Fashion from Africa .Many headlines were pessimistic. There was little relating to African business and innovation; arts; culture or society.  The Western media and aid “industry” are routinely blamed for this one-sided view of Africa – and the recent Kony 2012 campaign about Uganda’s rebel Lord’s Resistance Army was a good example of both. The campaign brought Uganda into the international spotlight, although many people within the country questioned the way it was portrayed by an American charity for a largely Western audience.

Attempts to rebrand the continent as a whole are also not new. An annual series of media summits began in 2006 with the aim of showing to the world “the other side of Africa”. The initiative drew support from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, and the Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. But why the limited success?

As BBC Africa Debate discusses the issue in Kampala, there will be some who argue that the way the continent has been portrayed is a true reflection of what is happening in several countries, such as Uganda. And that no amount of spin can wash the country if there are no meaningful reforms. They argue that such countries have to clean up in order to be viewed more positively.

Some argue that Africa can only influence her image abroad if it gets to control/own part of the global media market.

There is also a growing buzz of businessmen who feel that Africa’s image is changing and that the continent labelled by The Economist in 2000 as the “Hopeless Continent”, is now rising. Last year, the same magazine pointed out that over the past decade, six of the world’s ten fastest-growing countries were African; and this trend looks set to continue.

BBC Africa Debate will be asking: Africa’s international image, is it justified or prejudiced?  What do people mean when they invoke the name “Africa”? Do they refer to a race? A geography? What informs the global image of the continent? To what extent does it reflect reality – is the portrayal the problem or is the product faulty? Why have attempts to clean up the continent’s image been unsuccessful? Can Africa ever influence the way it is portrayed globally?

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