On Thursday 29th April 2020, we — the Tech and Public Policy team at the Tony Blair Institute of Global Change — hosted a wonderful discussion on social media and the African narrative. The conversation was the first in our Lunchtime Huddle series. Each week, members of our team at the Institute will connect with peers and industry leaders to discuss the most relevant issues in tech policy. We regard the tech revolution as the central political challenge of our time and we are building an inclusive 21st century policy platform to achieve this goal.
With guests, Ivy Prosper and Wacera Njagi, we discussed the topic of my most recent piece, “Social Media Futures: Changing the African Narrative”.
Wacera Njagi is a journalist and visual artist producing mobile stories and managing the creative direction at Everyday Africa, a platform for photographers living and working across the continent chronicling the everyday lives of Africans. Everyday Africa has amassed nearly half a million followers on Instagram and thousands on Facebook in its mission to “broaden the perception of Africa beyond the headlines”. Wacera is passionate about transmedia storytelling with their main focus being photo editing, layout design, and social research. Wacera has collaborated with storytelling teams at Magnum Photos, ICRC, World Press Photo, and others.
Ivy Prosper is a media professional with experience as a tv host, producer, writer, and public speaker. She is the social media manager for Ghana’s Year of Return and Beyond the Return initiatives, under the Ghana Tourism Authority, where she has been instrumental in connecting the diaspora with Ghana through social media. Ghana attracted an additional 200,000 visitors and the tourism sector injected about $1.9bn into the economy during the country’s Year of Return initiative.
Here are three highlights from the conversation :
- The traditional media has created and fostered a negative perception of Africa, often as a place of poverty, conflict, and disease. Ivy shared that as proof of the media’s culpability, National Geographic recently apologised for decades of racist reporting on Africa. Wacera added that this reality is also rooted in the use of photography as a tool of colonisation in Africa, the same tool photographers like herself are using to change the African narrative.
- As content creators committed to changing the African narrative, both Ivy and Wacera think deeply and strategically about the way they create and share content online. Ivy used content about and appealing to Ghanaian, African-American, Caribbean, and others of the global Black diaspora on Ghana’s Year of Return social media to portray Ghana as an inclusive environment for all, a strategy which paid dividends in the number of the visitors who came to Ghana that year. At Everyday Africa, Wacera and her team’s structure of our storytelling is authentic to how the platform began. Since 2012, Everyday Africa photographers living and working across Africa take photos with their camera phones, freezing images of everyday life in the countries we work in. Their common ground is a camera phone, an image of everyday life, and Instagram.
- Finally, Wacera concluded with this poignant point on how African governments can support content creators:
“Policy workers, hire African photographers to visualize African stories. You influence how your stakeholders perceive our countries. We can capture the truth with dignity, unlike detached parachute journalists. Pay storytellers, they are your scribes and archivists. It’s a library we’re building together. This cannot be a solitary movement. Let’s connect and unite our efforts.”
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