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Opinions of Saturday, 28 November 2009

Columnist: Offeh-Gyimah, Abena Kwatemaa

Negative Images Of The African Continent

By Abena Kwatemaa Offeh-Gyimah

“America only see and read about war, famine, HIV/AIDS, depleted economies, and all sorts of awful things, as if the continent is on fire. Where is the fire?” (James Michira)

Africa is a continent with 53 individual countries. Sadly, it is often viewed and presented by Western society as if it is one large country. This misconception ignores the fact that Africa has many diverse people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. There are numerous African languages and hundreds of dialects.

Africa is the second largest continent, in the world. This is in both population and land. Many people in Western societies display a lack of knowledge about the African continent and hold negative views about the continent. Most of these people have never visited Africa and probably planned not to do so because of the negative images presented of Africa as a starved poor continent. Though they have never visited this continent they hold views that seems only true to them through the media’s presentation of Africa.

Africa is associated with negative views to the western world such as poverty, AIDS, hunger stricken, politically unstable, corruption and rampant diseases. People in western society usually view people from this continent as uncivilized, savage, and incapable of governing themselves. They have depicted the continent to be dependant on the “developed” countries.

On the one hand, the western media fails to note that the underlying causes of famine in some parts of the continent are due to drought, which is a natural disaster. This plays a vital role because livestock and farming products decline dramatically during droughts. Also, the intervention of the western society refugee camps constitutes to this image of hunger. However, these western powers come in with their own interests such as exploiting victimized countries and unfair trade policies. These trades place a huge amount of the profit into the hands of the western powers.

Additionally, the image of Africa as a wild jungle is one of annoyance. Being born in Ghana, I do not recollect ever coming in contact with a lion or any wild animals. I do not recollect being friends with any wild animals. However, there are numerous documentaries that devote all their attention to the wild side of Africa, which are referred to as “safari”. As a result some people think that is all Africa is about. It is imperative to note that the African continent has more than wilderness, famine and hunger.

Also, people often forget that it was colonization that caused most of these stigmas to the continent’s name. Before colonization, Africa had great resources. It was a rich continent, one that still carries many natural resources. However, during colonization most of the resources were taken from the continent to make the now western society look the way it is now. The western societies after taking most of the resources from Africa left it in a haste and unstable condition.

The Western powers continue to exploit the African continent. They have supported some undemocratic governments for the exploitation of Africa’s natural resources, such as gold, cocoa, oil and so on. Up until today, it is important to note that when a natural resource is found somewhere in an African country, a western company is quick to get there and exploit once again. If the western countries were given a chance they would re-colonize the African continent again.

All efforts must be taken, individually to correct the mispresentation of the African continent. The private sector and governments will not take such an action because they are profit driven. The media always makes it seem as though Africa faces extinction unless the Western society comes to save it. However, as an individual, whose roots go back to the continent of Africa, it is important to take a stand for the continent because it holds the toil and blood of your parents. Western powers will continue to divulge the continent and disgrace its name for profit and more profit.