SABA Episode #8 — How to Change Africa’s Image Worldwide?



On this eighth and final episode of the 2021 SEE AFRICA BREATHE AFRICA podcasts, the discussion revolves around something I have a particular interest in: How to change Africa’s image worldwide?

Though I am African through and through, born and raised in Uganda, I don’t believe I had ever had to address the issue of my identity and image until I left the continent. When I lived and worked in the UK for a year or two, I suddenly became the de-facto ambassador of Africa to the community I was in.

Any and all manner of questions came my way about the continent and I was faced with all kinds of stereotypes and perceptions garnered from movies, simple Google searches and the news. I answered as well as I could, but the experience made me pause and think too. It made me realise that I also had a ‘worldview’ about my motherland, as a person who had lived and breathed it all my life. It may have been accurate according to me but it also began to shift as I encountered the views of others that were, from their perspective, justified as well.

Image is a powerful thing. Very similar to a brand. How do we as Africans see ourselves? And how does that affect how we present ourselves to the world? And in turn, how does the world view Africa and Africans? What is the interplay between the two? … And all this done bearing in mind that Africa is a vast and diverse continent as opposed to a single place!

Everything from snowcapped mountains to tropical forests to endless desert to vast savannahs is here. But that’s just the geography. The people and the cultures are a whole other ballgame. My home Uganda alone boasts of 56 different tribes!!! This begs the question of whether such a huge and diverse continent can have one accurate image without oversimplifying it to a few generic stereotypes in an attempt to cover bases.

As this young and vibrant continent interacts with the wider world, the advent of new technologies makes us more eager to take charge of the narrative. One must ponder whether ours is a static image or one evolving along with the people. I dare say we must even go further and ask ourselves why the outside world’s opinion is so important to us that we must align ourselves to something they will understand. We read our history and learn about our countries through books written by Europeans in their languages and learn to see ourselves through that lens. How this shapes our thinking, perception and interaction is a crucial consideration.

All this and much, much more is explored in Episode #8 with Ambrose Kibuuka, Joe Kahiri, Marcus Westberg, Miha Logar, Paul Ishimwe, and many of us just listening intently. On this topic I can also recommend Episode #3 on Africa’s secret history (in which you will even hear me) and Episode #4 discussing why Africa is poor.

OTHER SHOW NOTES

Qwela Band

Edirisa

Gorilla Highlands Initiative

Ambrose Kibuuka’s Edirisa history article

Marcus Westberg’s Gorilla Highlands history article

Responsible tourism

Batwa Today in Echuya Forest

photo by Marcus Westberg

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