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Keletso Thobega

"I am a little bit of everything all rolled into one.I am a lover,I am a child, I am a mother,I am a sinner, I am a saint. I do not feel ashamed.I am your hell, I am your dream, I am nothing in between." "I am the past you know nothing bout. The future you cannot ignore."

The role of Media in Africa

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Media is one of the greatest inventions to tame humankind. Many have been refined from rawness and primitive behaviour through exposure to media. African media has been at the centre of scrutiny for a long time. When the West had full economic and political control of the continent, African media was at its mercy and very limited and undeveloped. Though the west still has claws piercing our media, it must be acknowledged that African media has grown, contributing thoroughly to the consciousness and advancement of Africans.

Print (the oldest media form) first began (in Africa) in Sierra Leone in 1794.The first circulation began in 1800 and this method was introduced to various areas within the continent, a different manner of communicating with the masses. This production was halted by the evasion of the west, which introduced a stronger and solidified press system that would impart knowledge and information, in a perspective subjective to the west, diminishing African views and simultaneously battering African identity .Africa went through a dark period. It was to the world what a barren woman and impotent man are to society-outcasts filled with guilt and error and a relegated social status, continuously humiliated. The negative reports on Africa depicted the continent as a hole of anger, bitterness, illness, poverty and war. Who forgets thin children with protruding bones glazing wide-eyed at cameras, with flies on their noses? The men categorized as angry weapon yielding lunatics with no inner dream and no regard for anything? The West and Americans have always been quick to show Africa’s challenges while hypocritically hiding their own challenges.

We rarely ever see poor, segregated nationals from these areas on television or other media, yet we hear and know they exist. Aren’t there any people there affected by social ills. After the Hiroshima, when babies were born with deformities (the effects of the bombings) did the West say, we played a role. Instead they brought attention to the “intense poverty ravishing Africa”. Is there a need to overly exploit Africa’s weaknesses? What about the strides that have been taken to develop the continent. Infrastructure, education provision, environmental and childcare projects etc. The west wants to portray the negative of Africa to inhibit its growth and it’s this shallow attitude African media has and should continue to challenge and fight.

With this in mind, it does not mean Africans themselves should abuse the role of the media in trivial manners.
The decline in monopolistic ownership of media houses has meant that the voices the world was deaf to are being heard. African journalists, writers, thinkers, politicians etc have been given platforms. The “new media” instilled a firm consciousness in Africans and exposed them to different perspectives and mindsets, thus gaining knowledge to liberate them physically, psychologically, spiritually.  We have seen good developments in the telecommunications of countries like Botswana, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa and Tanzania to mention a few.

There are still changes to be made in order for African media to reflect and resonate the contemporary and dynamic times we live in. Applaud must be directed to progressive media law reforms promoting media diversity. This is within the UN Millennium Development Goals in line with African development.  Some of the challenges are that most gatekeepers are Westerners with agendas that contrary to African’s. Media is easily exploited to make a quick cheap buck by stripping humans of their dignity and they are never rewarded accordingly.

Education plays a critical role in the continued advancement of African media, as young learners need to be taught to be more informed, their thinking constantly challenged, skills brushed up and minds opened beyond what they may believe is the world.
With intense public awareness, media can play a pivotal role in building tolerance and challenging castrophobic attitudes. It is meant to inform, educate, elevate and entertain. True, all media houses have agendas we cannot all know and are usually motivated by capitalist interests, but can’t they have solid standards? They can.

At times I feel detached from what media is purported to be. If media does not elevate one’s status in life, encourage change in lifestyles, decisions, perceptions and intellectually engage an individual, then its role is blurred. I am yet to comprehend the “rub consumerism” pattern which seems to have taken up a lot of the media pie. It’s what people seem to want versus what they need and must be exposed to. Gratification has never sustained anyone in the long-term and that is why media players have to take responsibility to pursue agendas that will benefit societies. It is also the right of all media consumers to show some sense of assertiveness and avoid being passive. The armchair critic attitude must go for who does the media serve?
African’s lives must be constantly built and enhanced, and media is the most influential and widespread tool to do so.

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