To Cover Africa, Start by Humanizing Africans

To Cover Africa, Start by Humanizing Africans
A demonstrator protests the police murder of George Floyd in front of the U.S. Consulate General in Johannesburg, South Africa, June 8, 2020 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

I often like to say that my relationship with World Politics Review has come full circle from reader to employee. I have been a WPR reader for almost as long as the publication has existed. Two years ago, Judah Grunstein, WPR’s editor-in-chief, and I made contact on Twitter, and he subsequently invited me to contribute two articles, which we both thought turned out nicely. That’s why when the opportunity to join WPR’s editorial team arose, it was a no-brainer for me, not least because a core part of my responsibility would be to write a weekly newsletter about African affairs.

I started doing so July 9, 2021, and one year and 47 newsletters later, I thought I’d take a look back on the ambition and statement of intent I set out in the introductory edition and recap some of the last year’s coverage.

It’s worth pointing out that I have been an observer of foreign affairs for essentially my entire life and have consumed Western media coverage of the African continent for roughly the same period. To say that I have little regard for most of that coverage, including its representation of Africans and their stories, would be an understatement. In my introductory newsletter, I noted some of the shortcomings in the way Africa is covered in international media, including a tendency to characterize the continent as an amalgam of 1.4 billion people with shared traits, contexts and beliefs, as well as the narrow, one-dimensional range of topics that attract attention. These are then covered in ways that reinforce Western preconceptions of “Africa”—in its singular, monolithic framing—as poor, conflict-ridden, diseased and corrupt, lacking the full range of human complexity and autonomy that is understood to characterize Europe and North America.

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