Rebranding Africa: Why we have to rebrand our ‘shithole’ continent

Rebranding Africa: In the wake of comments made by the US president about Africa being a ‘Shithole” continent. The African Perspective Magazine founder details why he started this platform and why we all need to rise up and join the fight to rebrand Africa

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Rebranding Africa – A call to action

Here’s a continent of 1.1 Billion people & future home to 40% of all human beings & we still don’t have a media platform to speak for us! Not only can we not defend ourselves, we can’t even speak for ourselves! We don’t have a platform that can depict our continent in diverse ways; that can shape the African narrative on a global scare. I believe that this is why we need The African Perspective Magazine.

This is our chance to have people stop saying things like the whole Africa is a shithole! To show the world and ourselves that our continent is the most sophisticated place on earth. That Africa has been integral to the past & will drive the future of mankind; that regardless of our issues, this is the land of opportunities. This is why TAP continues to push on; this is why we invested over $50,000 USD in African youths last year. It is for these reasons that we’ve published 9 premium magazines highlighting Africa and the opportunities that exists on the continent. This is the time to rebrand Africa.

This is the time for you to join me and the TAP family on this journey. If you’re a business or individual that would like to be part of this challenge to rebrand Africa, please email me directly (mutabaruka@tapmagonline.com) and let’s get the work going. The time is now.

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Over the last 4 years or so, everywhere I’ve gone, people seem to always have one question for me. Why did you start a media platform that focuses on telling African stories? Why was I so compelled to go out of my way to create an African magazine with a mission of rebranding Africa. This is the most pertinent question I get. Even those who know me well, their questions are always centered on this issue, “but Moses, you’re not a journalist, you didn’t go to journalism school, why did you decide to start this thing”? People are fascinated by why we need an African media platform.

Well, in all honesty, this is what happened. In short, I am an accidental media entrepreneur. I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be a media entrepreneur or an editor of a magazine. In fact, I don’t remember ever owning or reading a magazine until I was in college.

So how did all this start? It all started when my family and I moved to Canada a few years ago. I had spent almost 15 years living as a refugee; both in the forests of Congo, in Tanzania and finally for an extended period of time in the slums of Nairobi. Then here I was, in Canada where I now had a television set and internet 24hrs. For the first time ever, I was connected to the whole world! And for the first time, I was about to find out how the world viewed and saw me! Looking back now, I was not ready for what was to come next or how it would shape my life and eventually lead to TAP.

Allow me to take you back to my first Sunday in Canada, my family and I had just got back from church and my siblings and I couldn’t wait to try out our new TV, what I didn’t know at the time was that this would be a monumental moment for me. As soon as I turned on the TV, the first thing that came on was this advertisement by Unicef – the ad was traumatizing to say the least, there she was, a beautiful blond white woman, in what looked like the busiest slum in the world, carrying a bare boned African child with what seemed like a mouth full of wildlife flies in his mouth.

Rebranding Africa

As I type this, I can still vividly see this child. The image has completely struck in my head all this time. Unfortunately, as I’d come to learn later on, this is how many people in the west see Africa and Africans. This image represents an entire continent for the majority of people in the West.

A week later, my brother and I would be enrolled in school; it would be here that I’d for the first times learn that I was indeed ‘black’! You see, when you grow up in Africa, you don’t consider yourself black! Where “race” is concerned, at the lowest you identify with a particular tribe. You are a Luo, a Kikuyu, a Dinka or a Nuel but ultimately you’re a Kenyan, a South Sudanese, and an African.

So here I was, a black man for the first time… learning and subjected to all the stereotypes that young, white high school kids have of black boys. I was supposed to be the Dj at every party I went too, I was supposed to be tough and in a gang, I was supposed to have weed on me at all times in all settings, I was supposed to be good at basketball and with the ladies at the same time!

To be honest, it would take a few more years to get the meanings of many of the stereotypes and names that were directed at me both from my fellow students, teachers and coaches. It would even take longer to grasp how these things impact young black boys and men born and living in this environment.

On the other side, I was shocked by the reactions of the people I met and shared my story with. This folks were surprised that I had just arrived from Africa and was able to speak English. That a new immigrant from Africa claimed he knew how to drive a car, that he could order himself a meal when we went out to the restaurant… these personal experiences and the constant image of Africa and Africans that I’d continue to see on TV and the internet (by now google was my friend) continued to jolt and disturb my psyche.

For folks here, Africa was a country, a poor starving country where people lived in trees and hunted for dinner beside hyenas and lions! Africa was full of diseases and Africans were primitive. “How can you drive and you just came from Africa” was another question I was always bombarded with no matter how much I tried to explain that if you can drive in Nairobi you can drive anywhere. Literally! I quickly realized that the Africa I’d grown up in, that I’d known (gigantic & most diverse place on earth) was not what people here saw, in particular I learnt how the media had been influential in perpetrating an image of Africa that was so distorted and it didn’t take me much to know that this was dangerous.

Having lived through and survived the genocide in Rwanda, I had spent a lot of years wondering how this horrible plot was able to come to life, how could neighbours turn against one another? How could a family give away other family members to be slaughtered? This had led me to research on the holocaust and how Hitler was able to reduce a whole community of people to nothing; to animals. All my reading and research into how the perpetrators of both the holocaust and the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi accomplished their horrors always brought me to one key ally. Media!

In 1994, the Rwandan government and their Hutu extremist allies employed Rwanda’s national radio as a key tool of their agenda. For years, they had hammered in everyone’s mind that Tutsis were animals, “cockroaches” to be specific! That they eat people, that they were not to be trusted, that they were not human – Thousands of these messages through the national airways were played for years – When the “call to action” happened, this is how the average person was then able to pick up a panga and wipe out members of their families who were Tutsi’s.

A few decades earlier in Germany, Hitler had also used radio and print paper to propagate his propaganda; to gas and slaughter almost 15 million Jews. Almost four years on, when I’ve struggled to attract support and I’ve considered quitting my work with TAP to work on other things, it is this realization of how important media is that has kept me in the fight.

With the above in mind, I knew I had to get up and do something about how Africa and the lives of Africans were portrayed in global media. I had to stop complaining and bashing CNN/BBC on social media. I had to take up this challenge of changing the way the world viewed Africa. I had to build a platform that would be dedicated to rebranding Africa. I had to bring to the foe diverse stories from the continent; to reaffirm that the lives of over 1.1 billion people mattered.

A ‘Shithole’ continent

Last Thursday, I was once again reminded of why an African media platform is needed, of why we need to rebrand Africa when the president of one of the most powerful country in the world called our entire continent a ‘shithole’. Was I surprised? Unfortunately not! He’s beliefs and sentiments that Africa is a ‘shithole’ continent is something that is carried both concisely and subconscious by many people and institutions in the west.

In the past, my adopted country of Canada, which markets itself as one of the most open, welcoming and ‘liberal’ nations in the world has been guilty of the same ‘mantra’. Until 1976, Canada had operated on an immigration policy which sought her new immigrants from countries with people that look more like Norwegians than Nigerians.

Israel, a country looking to rebuild its relationships with the African Union, doesn’t want African immigrants on its soil – so much so it is paying them to leave its territories. A peace index poll published by the times of Israel IN 2012 found that Fifty-two percent of Jewish Israelis identify with the statement by their minister of Culture and Sport, MK Miri Regev that described African migrants as “a cancer in the body” of their nation.

Does Africa have serious issues and problem? Certainly; our vicious corrupt leaders and individuals continue to deny our people their basic needs. Nepotism is still very much rampant across out public institutions and we have a massive demographic of unemployed youths that continues to prevent a significant challenge to our development. Our education systems are still decades behind and many of our mothers continue to perish during childbirth. Furthermore, millions of Africans living in urban cities continue to live in unhealthy and often horrendous conditions across Africa’s metropolis.

But Africa does not have monopoly on these issues. Despite being just 5% of the world population; Americans make up 20% of the entire world prison population. Each year, on US soil, over 33,000 thousand Americans are killed by the US gun violence epidemic. Race conflict and tension continues to escalate at an alarming rate. Even the mighty US democracy has been shrinking and under threat in recent times. In America, poverty continues to be rampant. As recent as 2016, the official US data showed that 12. 7% or 43.1 million Americans were living in poverty. Should we now call the mighty USA a shithole?

Why is it that we don’t think of those starving children in Florida and Detroit when we think of America? Because of the violence in Chicago or Baltimore do you think of ‘shithole’ when these cities are mentioned? With the number of men/women behind bars,  is prisons the first think that comes to your mind when the US is mentioned? This is the argument that Akon was recently making. Every country & continent has problems. The difference is America knows how to brand itself while we don’t. And this has big consequences for Africa and the lives of our people. No one wants to visit or invest in a ‘shithole’.

Rebranding Africa

 

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite African proverbs – “Until lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter”.

Amandla…

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