Telling the African Story – Komla Dumor

Amazing TED Talk!
But just switching gears a little, this talk has provoked a few questions:

1. Is it enough to say that the narrative is told best or is “balanced” when told by the indigens of any one place? I am totally for the story being told by the “African expert”, I am completely for the story being told by the voices on the ground, but how do we truly come to concrete sustainable solutions without the “outsider’s view” as well, whatever that may be? How would we categorize people with a deep-seated passion for the continent who may perhaps not  necessarily fit into the categorization of “the African expert”, at least by the standards this talk insinuates? Surely, we must come to some common ground, where we can reconcile indigenous knowledge with expatriated knowledge to reach progressive goals.

2. Is it enough to say that we must export our stories to Western media platforms, to hear balanced perspectives from “the horse’s own mouth” as the proverbial saying puts it? What about building capacity for our own selves, to tell our stories? The BBC’s largest media market is in Africa, so how about building our own media platform, like Al Jazeera did in the Middle East, to sell our stories globally? Or even still, building the capacity of local media like Ghana’s Multimedia Group (because that’s the one I am familiar with), and many others to tell Africa’s story? In this case, we build a platform for our stories to be told, and we ourselves are the voices on the screens. BBC’s “Focus on Africa”, CNN’s “Inside Africa” and many others are good enough, with great African anchors but still, can we call the platform sincerely ours?

I know everything good will come with time. But these are just a few thoughts this brilliant TED Talk provoked and I feel Africa has come to a point where we must identify these nuances in the narratives we disseminate, and begin to think more deeply about building capacity for ourselves.


2 thoughts on “Telling the African Story – Komla Dumor

  1. Your first point is well taken. However, if I may, I would like to add a point he may not have made clear, I think you two are going for the same point. He seems to believe that at this juncture in history, the outsiders view is dominant. Not only that but the outsider story has become monotonous and lacking a “real” on the grounds approach. Remember the haggis example? How can you ask someone, from somewhere about Haggis if you are not consulting a local expert/physician first? His aim is to bring the “African expert” in to create the view the “other” misses, just as you would be concerned if we just had the view of the African Expert.

    Your second point strikes a chord with me. I have often wondered about it. Especially when I watch cable channels with programming from Africa with barely anyone noticing them. Maybe, it is a marketing issue. There is a lot to the “African perspective” especially in music, art, history and general affairs. It might also be a matter of investing. These ideas can be pitched to young entrepreneurs who are looking for the next big avenue. Al-Jazeera is a great case study.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I quite enjoyed reading them! 🙂

    • Interesting note you make on the first example. I still do think that given his emphasis on the “balanced perspective” he probably should have cautioned Africans not to deride the “outsiders perspective” as well.

      On the second note though, I reckon that perhaps with time, these things will be put in place. Yet still, we the generation of impatient optimists (lol!), really need to start grappling with these things, as you rightfully assert!


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