It makes us uncomfortable when it’s reported in western media, but we can’t sugar-coat reality – it’s dangerous: that reality could explode at any time
During a recent trip spent travelling across Nigeria, a banker friend of mine advised me to “keep things positive” if I ever shared my observations in “western media”. I pointed out Nigeria is currently in dire economic straits; many civil servants haven’t received a salary this year, pensions are going unpaid, people are struggling to feed their families and children are actually starving to death in the country’s north-east. “Writing about it won’t help those people. And you know negative western media stories on Africa only make these white folk and others look down on us,” my friend replied. Over the years, I’ve heard similar sentiments expressed by numerous middle- and upper-class Nigerians.
When it comes to western media coverage of Africa, the continent’s privileged classes are usually more concerned with the perceptions created than with the realities depicted. They find images of suffering Africans annoying because these “perpetuate negative stereotypes”. The actual suffering rarely elicits as much outrage as the fact it is being exposed for the world to see.