People across Africa often question the images the continent projects around the world, focusing on famine, disease, poverty, instability and violence. Western media and aid organisations, are often blamed for perpetuating this one-sided negative view of Africa, and some people believe that Africa can only influence its image abroad if it gets to control or own part of the global media market.
However, there are those who argue that the way the continent is portrayed is a reflection of what is happening in many African countries, and that no amount of spin can improve such an image if there are no meaningful reforms.
This is the subject of the April 2012 edition of BBC World Service’s programme, BBC Africa Debate. Presented by the BBC’sAkwasi Sarpong and Fergus Nicoll, Africa’s global image: Justified or prejudiced? will be recorded in Kampala, Uganda, and broadcast at 19.00 GMT on Friday 27 April. BBC Swahili will also record and broadcast a debate on the same subject, on the same day.
African governments have repeatedly but often unsuccessfully attempted to shake off negative connotations and rebrand. Nigeria, for example, had little success when it tried to rebrand in 2009 with its “Nigeria: Good people, great nation” campaign. South Africa, however, has managed to get rid of its long-standing association with apartheid, and to establish itself as a premium tourism destination.
There have also been attempts to rebrand the continent as a whole. An annual series of media summits began in 2006 with the aim of showing to the world “the other side of Africa”. The initiative drew support from the likes of Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, and the Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. But why has success been limited – and the narrative of Africa as home of some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, of expanding middle classes, of vibrant, unique arts and talent, largely left outside the global focus?
BBC Africa Debate will be asking in Kampala what actually shapes the global image of the continent and whether the image of Africa projected internationally is justified or prejudiced. The programme will explore whether this image reflects reality and if Africa can influence the way it is portrayed.
Around 100 invited guests, including media, representatives of NGOs, business people, government officials, opposition and activists, students and academics, PR professionals, bloggers, and other social-media users who actively work to change perceptions about Africa.
This edition of BBC Africa Debate will be recorded on Friday 27 April at the Fairway hotel, Kampala, Uganda, and will be broadcast by BBC World Service at 19.00 GMT on the same day. The programme will be repeated on Sunday 29 April at 13.00 GMT. BBC Swahili’s debate will be recorded at the same location on Friday 27 April, and will be broadcast at 15.30 GMT on the same day.
Each edition of BBC Africa Debate is broadcast from a different location in Africa.
For more information and media invitations to the programme recording, please contact:
Sophie West, BBC Global News Communications