Poverty Porn

I am one of the people that are of the view that media outlets like CNN, BBC and Aljazeera have done more harm than good to the people of Africa. Whenever I see a documentary on Africa on these media platforms, they are about how poor Africa is, or how sick its people are or how they are in one need or the other.

Most African countries are depicted with more shameful images than I have ever come across. Thus, for a lot of people that I know and have interacted with, their opinions of Africa are limited to wars, the quest of blood diamonds and hunger. I recently met an old woman who told me in the face that I smelled really nice for somebody from Africa and that my skin looked too good for someone who had lived in Africa all of her life. When I inquired about the reason for her statement, she said she knew that Africa has little access to clean water or water for that matter, and therefore, a lot of people took their baths, using their urine. To say that I was horrified, is an understatement.

I know this lady really well, and she is one of the nicest people that I have ever met and I know for certain that she did not make this statement out of malice. Thus, I blame the media and other organizations like UNICEF, USAID, and UKAID that have glorified themselves by painting damaging pictures of Africa.

My roommate asked me whether I just started driving when I came to America and went on and on about how she has heard that only a few people actually owned cars in Africa. I was really uncomfortable with that topic because just like everybody in America, I started learning how to drive when I was sixteen, and even I am not from the richest of African families. Another one of my roommates asked me whether I was the only member of my family with a mobile phone. I showed her a social media group messaging site, that had over thirty of my family members participating in a group chat and she was amazed.

I don’t blame my roommate though and neither do I blame people that have similar sentiments. I blame the media and other NGOs that campaign for money to ‘help’ Africans. I read somewhere that if foreign aid could develop any place in the world, Africa would be the most developed continent in the world. I agree with this statement because a lot of aid is seen to be given to the continent but not a lot of development is seen. Perhaps, the biggest aid to be given to the continent is to help get rid of corrupt leaders and then, everyone would see just how much poverty can be alleviated in Africa.

Western media tend to focus on how foreigners and other international organizations are saving the people of Africa, creating the pseudo impression that Africa is filled with a bunch of lazy, poor and hopeless people in need of saving by the foreigner. What good does this really do for people that are living in Africa? Will it be more beneficial to people in Africa, if a minute of global news item every week, were dedicated to young Africans that are changing the livelihoods of the people in their community through ingenious ways? Won’t African people be inspired more by the successes of their fellow Africans rather than by the poverty that is constantly shown?

I know of Africans that are generating electricity out of the filth produced by their community, for their community. I know a lot of African youths that are building shelters for the homeless out of used soda cans. I know Africans living in Africa that are inventing cars that do not run on any petroleum products. I know of a lot of Africans that are studying abroad and are performing just as well as their more western counterparts, although they had their basic education in ‘poverty-filled’ Africa. The poverty porn representation of Africa should stop.

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