Stakeholders in the public relations and media have stated that African story and narrative should be told by Africans to avoid western world stereotypes in order to position the continent as the new frontier rather than hunger, disease, corruption and developing continent.
The position was taken at the recently held 22nd NECCI PR Roundtable themed: Danger of a single story: Communication & reputational crisis in Africa held at Eko Hotel in Lagos.
In her keynote speech, the chairman of Access Bank Plc, Dr. Ajoritsedere Josephine Awosika stated that Africans must rise up to the occasion and disown every stereotyping messaging from the west and begin to create messages of prosperity, invention and development for the continent.
“There are a lot of positive developments in Africa. We must not allow other continents to take ownership of our story. Africa is a continent of prosperity, invention, innovation and development. Therefore, allowing others to paint us as a continent of hunger, disease, corruption and referring to us as a developing continent must not be allowed to fester,” Dr. Awosika stated.
According to her, “I am not a communication expert but those in the business of communication and messaging must begin to create and generate positive messaging that truly reflects who we are as people because the continent is blessed and endeavored with some of the best natural resources you can find anywhere in the world.
We are ambassadors of our culture. The ecosystem of Africa is created for a purpose.
“We need our system not to be corrupted. Those at the helm of affairs must also ensure the system is not corrupt. There must be equity and justice. Loopholes must be filled with good governance. Let’s tell the right story by doing the right thing.”
She, however, posited that the continent leaders- leaders of all countries in Africa must begin to offer African good governance so that other parts of the world would not see the continent in a bad light.
In his paper titled “Danger of a single story: Consequences of Labels and stereotyping. South Africa as a case study”, Mpumelelo Ndumiso Zondi, Head of Brand & Global Client Lead, Edelman, South Africa, said that it looks like we all have an idea of what the African problem is, but the solutions seem to be the challenge.
“There must be a deliberate attempt by Africans to solve Africa’s problems. We must know that the solutions we seek can only be provided by Africans therefore, targeted communications must be created to meet reality. That has been our challenge,” he quipped.
“We have a challenge in Africa to reshape the image of the African continent. We can be blaming others when our actions are counterproductive to what we preach. A good PR must have a constant truth. Therefore, our communications and messaging about the continent must reflect the reality on ground and that way, the rest of the world won’t portray us as primitive and corrupt,” said Founder of BEEC International, Mike Okereke
Okereke further said that the problem of Africa is Africa, noting that the solution begins by Africans loving one another. He also said African leaders should make mobility in the continent easy.
President, Nigeria Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), Mukhtar Sirajo, observed that Nigeria is suffering from no story, adding: “We have also taken communication for granted. He described communication as the oxygen of existence.”
Professor of Mass Communication University of Lagos, Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika argued that single story creates reputation risk, insisting that there is need to create counter narratives of stories told.
She said Africans should not fall flat on their faces when the African story is being told wrongly by the western countries but should challenge those narratives because there are aliens to the us. “The word corruption is English; therefore, Europe and America cannot associate us with what we do not understand. Africans must be able to stand up and represent the continent anywhere.”
Nkechi Ali-Balogun in her remark stated that “Africa should be one of the world’s superpowers yet due to many challenges that plague the continent; it is one of the poorest continents and often regarded as a dark one. The narrative of the continent is that of war, poverty, terror, corruption and disease and no matter their standard of education and achievements, is looked down upon and ridiculed everywhere”.
Arguably, she said, Africa is a bright continent with adequate resources in terms of human capital, geographical landscape and minerals, resources that make the continent a good and fertile ground for any economy to thrive.
Some argue that Africa is a victim of the “single story” syndrome which has contributed to the negative perception and unending reputational crisis that deepens each day with very grave consequences. The crisis will continue to deepen and unfortunately Africa is fast becoming synonymous with that single story.
The proponents of the single story like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie believe that the power of the continent can only be exposed depending on “how they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told.” –
“I totally agree with the fact that we have to tell our own story but the stories have to be based on some empirical realities. For instance, is Africa indeed a victim of the single story? Like the proverbial saying, is Africa and Africans the architect of their fortune or misfortune? Whichever way you want to look at it, you must agree with me that the case of stereotypes can be difficult to overcome, even for victims,” Ali-Balogun said.
Africa has lived under the burden of political, economic and social conspiracies by world powers to the extent that Africans no longer believe in themselves and seek validation from a people who ordinarily should be looking towards them for survival. Afro-pessimism has eaten into the very fabric of our existence as a people and a continent.
We believe that the time has come to do something drastic to debunk this long-held “Afro-pessimistic” notion of Africa as a backward continent plagued by conflict and poverty. The time has also come for us to be truthful to ourselves by identifying the reasons for such pessimistic notions with a view to rewriting our stories. It is time for us to intentionally create new stories from our numerous successes to help redefine the ‘Dark Continent’ narrative.
“We can collectively through various forms of communication find a more structured and definitive way to tell our stories. This could herald the emergence of a movement for change as well as a new narrative to overcome the negative voices that have overshadowed Africa for decades.
We believe that Africa, as the next global frontier, needs to tell her stories and tell it better. We need you to champion this new drive to reshape our continent and change that single story of Africa and Nigeria in particular as “a place of catastrophe” and a shit-hole,” she stated.