Monday, 25 March 2013

Let's Sell Africa to the Real World

Not so long ago I told you I had a post in the works. My essay is done and so I'm free to write. I hope you read the William Wallis article that Emeka Okafor shared. If you did, you may have come across the Chairman of the Nigerian Central Bank, Lamido Sanusi's article about Sino-Africa relations.

What's funny is that on this course I've been speaking about there being a multi-speed Africa. An Africa for the Presidents, and Africa for the "Afropolitans" and an Africa for the everyfolk. Every single one of these sections of society recognise the Chinese presence on the continent. It is very difficult to ignore if I'm honest. But what I feel some people have ignored, is the need to present this new Africa to the world. The real world. When I hear someone talk about working to promote Africa to the world they often mean sharing their country's truth with the rest of the continent and sharing their continent's truth with Europe and North America. Rarely do you hear about a magazine who's main aim is to be stocked on the shelves of Asian newsagents and supermarkets. A magazine thinks they've made it because they've got onto Walmart and WHSmith shelves, but the people really investing in the continent, and the people with the disposable income to invest in the continent are in the other direction.

When I sat in my International Politics class in Singapore, I recall my classmates being fascinated by me for being the first African they had met, I will admit that they were swiftly disappointed when they realised my accent was British and further let down when I explained that I was born and raised in London and had only visited Africa 3 times. I remember telling them, if it made them feel happy I would be their first African friend, but I know that didn't really work for them. When in Singapore I was told not to find and associate myself with an exclusively black group of friends (people in South East Asia are aware of West Africa's rising reputation in the drug trafficking industry) and in Malaysia, from what I remember Africans aren't taken as very special, if I can say it politely.

So Afropolitans across the continent are busy churning out an image of a creative, democratic, bright, colourful, rich Africa so the "world" can stop pitying us, but that is not making it Eastbound, and its only making it Westbound because its an alternative outlook for all those alternative people. China doesn't work in hard-power in Africa. They work in soft-power, they make us love them by building our stadia and our parliaments and our roads. They make us love them by basing CCTV offices in Africa and having African anchors. They make us love them by actively following a rhetoric and making sure it gets to the people - drowning out the doubtful voice of Western media which authorities themselves have called "a challenge". How have we made them love us? Do we work hard to change the profile of the Africa in the years between World Cups (when the world supports us because we are underdogs)? I will be over the moon when I return to Singapore and see ARISE, NAW Magazine et al on the magazine shelves of NTUC and when I see more wealthy black people enjoying holidays in the paradise islands of Thailand and Malaysia instead of them investing in coats and scarves for the icy cold LondonTown and New Jersey.

If we're are going to sell Africa to the world, sell it where it counts, where your footprint will make a real impression. 

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