Has negative media coverage of Africa dampened the continent’s prosperity? A Twitter battle last week over New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof’s coverage of Africa shows that some think it has.
Ugandan critic Teddy Ruge hit Kristof with the criticism that media coverage of Africa’s struggles and violence does the continent more harm than good. Ruge claimed that when high-profile coverage like Kristof’s paints a bleak picture of the whole continent, it distorts its image in the eyes of Westerners, despite its rapid economic growth, hailed by many mainstream outlets, including The Atlantic's recent article, "The next Asia is Africa."
Kristof struck back, saying that while his ‘Africa rising’ storyline is important, his priority has been to focus on personal stories that demonstrate the barriers to prosperity and security, which he feels are under-reported.
Ruge isn’t the first to criticize Kristof’s brand of Africa coverage, as seen from this Foreign Policy piece on How Not To Write About Africa. The author shares Ruge’s argument that Africa is a collection of unique places and circumstances and not all are plagued by poverty and violence.
Africa is home to both exploding economic growth and severe challenges. But the question remains as to how investment and entrepreneurship are impacted by media portrayals.
Ruge says better coverage would focus on African solutions contributing to the continent’s rise, which would, the argument goes, be a factor in encouraging private sector investment.
But as he also points out, Africa isn’t one entity, and that means that while some Africans are rising, many others are suffering. And ignoring that in media coverage won’t change it.
Read the Twitter debate between Kristof and Ruge, along with other opinions, here.