Africa Confidential:Shaking the world information order
Monday, October 29, 2007
The persistent phenomenon of how the Western Media have continued to treat Africa negatively is as topical today as it was nearly two decades ago when many Africans and other aggrieved proponents campaigned for the adoption of a new world information order as the best corrective approach.
In this context, African news became narrowed to the perspective of the War on Terror. Going beyond professional inadequacies and structural bias of the Western Media, Africa Confidential, the world's leading fortnightly on Africa, is venturing into titanic task by portraying a positive image of Africa through the news wire.
In this new issue (Volume 48, Number 21), Patrick Smith, Africa Confidential's Editor, invites the subscribers to an interesting and exciting journey through Africa. ''A whirlwind trip through New York and Washington this week shows that Africa has moved up the diplomatic and economic agenda, despite the Iraq-Iran obsessions here.
However, so much of Africa is seen through the war on terror viewfinder. At the peak of the Cold War, there was no conflict in Africa that earnest policy wonk wouldn't squeeze fit into a global scheme of U.S foreign policy,'' he hinted.
According to him, ''Africa cannot allow to be Africa, it must be corralled into a wider template of global power relations. Of course, Africa has its own international interests, but the wonks attached too little importance to these.'' Setting the record straight, he pointed out that current crisis in ''Somalia has become Africa's front in the war on terror for the wonks.
Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, Mogadishu and Kismayo have become Iraq writ small for Washington and Addis Ababa. More puzzingly, the Sudanese regime in Khartoum has become a source of vital intelligence on terrorism for the West. Even the once-reviled Moammar Gadaffi of Libya is now feted as another key intelligence source-more logically because the overthrow of Gadaffi's regime is near the top of Al Qaida's to-do list in North Africa. At the other end of the credibility scale, serious-looking men in suits have asked me how many militants in the Niger Delta are on the Al Qaida payroll-as though Nigerians are incapable of running their own rebellions.''
These arguments have recently been a topic that has sparked off considerable debate during the 50th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association of the USA in New York. ''Washington's Ambassador to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Cindy Corville, was put up to defend US Africa policy against a critical barrage, led by African intellectuals, such as Mahmoud Mamdani of Columbia University and Akwe Amosu of the Open Society Institute. The critics' theme was that US policy in Africa has become irredeemably militarized and is now a poorly resourced sideshow to its failing policy in the Middle East,'' he noted.
However in Washington, US Policy got an easier ride at the Annual Meetings of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). According to Patrick Smith, this situation is due to the fact that '' the blame for economic failure, is more widely and fairly shared between the many different parties.'' He then added: ''the other reason is that top US diplomat turned President of the World Bank Robert Zoellick scored some palpable hits in his new role, just three months into the job.''
In addition, Patrick Smith seems to be very impressed by the move taken by the new boss of the World Bank. He is with the view that one of the important pillars of the Bretton Woods' institutions ''would no longer see itself as the last word on development economics, producing policy prescription from on high, but rather as a team player, contributing money and ideas.'' The appointment of Nigerian women technocrats, respectively, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Obi Ezekweseili, will he said, contribute to renew the Bank's focus on the African continent. Pragmatism is certainly the order of the day, as India and China are providing better alternative to African economies.
''Getting behind the headlines to bring the real facts,'' Africa Confidential is sending a vibrant call to Western media practitioners. In other words, they should stop presenting fatalistic and selectively crude images of Africa. Equally important is the need for African journalists to revisit also the effects the nature of global media ownership has had on news flow from and to Africa.
Author: by Abdoulie John