Several studies show that the image conveyed by the African media is based on stereotypes. The NGO Africa No Filter invites Africans to reclaim their storytelling.
Africa tells itself stories ... but not its own! This is the observation of Africa No Filter, an NGO which deplores the existence of stories "harmful" to Africa in the various media. These “stereotypical accounts of Africa” are not in tune with today's reality, believes the organization which wants the continent to be seen for what it really is: “progressive and dynamic”. To back up his speech, Africa No Filter has launched a major study which aims to understand "why the history of Africa continues to emerge from negative stereotypes". And the observation is clear: the media, even African ones, rely on storytelling written thousands of kilometers away, without the reality on the ground being highlighted.
"The image of an Africa divided, dependent and which does not engage"
Indeed, according to the Africa No Filter study, "a third of the information published by the African media comes from foreign press agencies". Understand European for the majority of them. "Despite years of independence, it is still not the Africans who hold the pen when it comes to writing the stories that concern them", summarizes Moky Makura, Executive Director of the NGO. Worse, the continental media, by publishing articles written by non-Africans, help to give a deplorable image of the continent. "Through the articles that we share in our media, we continue to spread the image of an Africa that is divided, dependent and which does not engage", indicates Moky Makura.
To reach these conclusions, the NGO interviewed 38 publishers in fifteen African countries, but also analyzed the content of 60 media for three weeks. Correspondents and editors were also questioned about their practices. It turns out, concludes the NGO report, that AFP and the BBC are the main providers of information - a quarter of the articles published in the African media - and that African agencies are little used. This is problematic when you know that the vast majority of articles written in Paris or London concern politics and armed conflicts. "We must take up the pen again," suggests Moky Makura, as a solution.
A harmful storytelling for migration, creativity and innovation
Because the writing of articles by European press agencies is a real concern. In 2019, researchers at Stanford University had estimated that this gave rise to "biased, Eurocentric and insufficient" information. Blame it on an analytical error: foreign media tend to see Africa as a homogeneous continent. For Toussaint Nothias, lecturer at the Center for African Studies at Stanford University and author of "How Western Journalists Actually Write About Africa", the image of Africa in foreign media is generally negative ... that it interests journalists. Because according to him, barely 3% of international coverage relates to Africa, in European magazines and newspapers. And when it comes to Africa, the terms "social and political instability", "violence and death" and "corruption" take precedence over the rest. A negativity which gives a deplorable image of Africa in the media.
So when the African media pick up on AFP or the BBC, the fallout can be more serious than expected. Especially if the press bosses do not realize it… "Paradoxically, 50% of the editors-in-chief questioned believe that their coverage of African countries other than theirs does not contain stereotypes", wonders Africa No Filter, who estimates “That we have to go to great lengths to educate ourselves and change the role we play in perpetuating outdated stereotypes about ourselves”. In other words, it is up to Africans to take control of their storytelling. And it is far from being a detail… “The stories have a great importance and their influence goes beyond the simple narration, assures Moky Makura. They have an impact on investment in Africa, on youth and the opportunities that people perceive in their countries, on migration, creativity and innovation ”.