Always Something New Out of Africa?

[T]here is a great deal more to Africa than wars and famines.

The problem is that news, as defined by news editors throughout the media, is when something important or interesting happens. There is no conspiracy about African coverage (though there is a great deal of laziness among editors who are happy to limit their story selection to images of dramatic disasters.) And news organizations must cover stories of starvation and war as they would cover disasters in the rest of the world. The question is where are the African stories that show the fuller picture?

Years of covering Africa taught me not to go on holiday at Christmas or in August when nothing much happened in the world. That was when desperate news editors with space to fill might finally run that article on Namibia’s politics or Mali’s nomads. But there was always the eternal nagging news editor’s question: “So what?”

That’s Richard Dowden, in a post over at African Arguments.

In a way, it’s comforting to know that development economists are not alone, and that the “So what?” question is not exclusively asked to development economists by other, non-development economists.

Dowden’s Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles, which I have read on Kim Yi Dionne‘s recommendation (it is compulsory reading in her African politics class), is a highly readable introduction to Africa in all its diversity. It’s a great read if, like me, your African experience is limited to about five countries. I imagine it’s an even better read if all you know about Africa is from reading the news.

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