Africa deserves our attention beyond simplistic stereotypes

Africa, a continent of 54 identifiable nations, rich cultural and ecological diversity, and the cradle of human civilisation, remains a largely ignored and underreport subject in the corporate-owned media. Matthew Amha raises this precise starting point in his article ‘Invisible Africa.’ Why does he make this observation, and how can this problem be addressed?

If we hear of stories from sub-Saharan African nations, they normally follow a predictable and simplistic pattern – warlords, dictators, corruption, child soldiers…..and exotic locales. Africa, in similar fashion to other continents, was hit by the Covid pandemic. Its toll of human suffering has been tremendous. Yet how many of us in Australia – and the Anglo majoritarian nations – are familiar with the stunning success stories of African nations dealing with the pandemic?

Senegal, Ghana and Rwanda – each in their own way – set outstanding examples of how to contain and manage the harmful human and health impacts of the current pandemic. Each nation, relying on its own resources, have efficiently developed vaccines, rolled them out at low cost to their respective populations, minimising the risk of Covid-19 fatalities, and have put the wealthy countries to shame. Senegal, a nation of 16 million people, has had only 30 deaths.

Ghana, in similar fashion to Senegal, implemented a rigorous contact tracing system, and mobilised hundreds of health care workers the moment the first international alerts regarding the pandemic went out. This nation of 30 million has maintained a relatively low Covid-19 mortality rate. This is not to discount the tragedy of each death, but to set a reasonable basis for comparison with the wealthier nations. The USA, with its vast medical and financial resources, has a Covid-19 death toll of 604,416 at the time of writing.

Matthew Amha, in his article referred to above, makes an interesting juxtaposition which reveals the character and agenda of the corporate-owned media. Throughout 2019 and 2020, detailed and sustained coverage was provided of the Hong Kong protests. The latter were promoted as motivated by democratic aspirations. Every nuance and action by the Hong Kongers was given sympathetic coverage. Why were not the similar and contemporaneous political uprisings in numerous African nations not given equally supportive time?

Mali, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda – among other nations – experienced political convulsions and mass democratic movements challenging the established orders in these respective countries. Why does not Ugandan political candidate and democracy activist Bobi Wine, subjected to state-sponsored repression, receive the same frequent and sympathetic coverage as putative opposition candidate and far right Russian racist Alexei Navalny?

In the west African nation of Mali, nationalist protesters have demanded the removal of French troops, a thoroughgoing change to the existing political structures, and an end to the French occupation of the country. Since gaining independence in 1960, the French ruling class has sought to regain influence in its former colony. In 2013, France deployed its troops to Mali, on the pretext of fighting Islamist militias in that country.

Operation Serval, as it was called, was intended to defeat Malian insurgents and reinstall a pro-Paris client regime. While Paris was quick to declare victory in 2014, the French political establishment soon launched Operation Barkhane, an ongoing French military occupation that is proving to be France’s forever war in the Sahel region.

The flimsy pretext of confronting Islamist militias is good for public relations in the Anglo majority nations, but is wearing thin on the ground. The underlying issues of economic inequalities, human rights abuses, mismanagement of land and agricultural resources, has not been addressed by the French military operation. Indeed, the only achievement of the occupation is to extend, in a different way, the colonial power of the French in Mali.

French militarisation in Mali, and its efforts to protect its dominant economic interests, has been thinly disguised as a ‘war on terror.’ This latter excuse has been deployed by the United States to rationalise its own predatory behaviour. The issue of Tuareg nationalism, and the right of the Tuareg for self-determination, remains unresolved. This lack of resolution is only providing a breeding ground for an armed insurgency against the French-backed Malian authorities.

Let’s stop deploying the irrelevant excuse of ‘but there is corruption’ to avoid helping African nations. Yes, there is corruption in Nigeria, Zambia, Mozambique – the list goes on. The late Mike Wallace, American journalist and commentator, rebuked his interviewee, Minister Louis Farrakhan, by claiming that Nigeria – a Muslim majority country – was the ‘most corrupt’ in Africa. Farrakhan responded with an observation we should all absorb – the imperialist countries are in no position to deliver moralising sermons about corruption.

The charge of ‘African corruption’ is only ever wheeled out in order to dismiss and divert conversations about reaching out to African nations. If corruption were truly the object of concern, we would address ourselves to the institutionalised corruption of our own financial elites. As George Monbiot wrote, if you think the UK has no corruption, you are not looking hard enough.

Let’s engage with Africa by first being informed about the continent, rather than recycling tired and simplistic stereotypes.

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