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How Changing the African Narrative Can Change the Region – Egyptian Streets

How Changing the African Narrative Can Change the Region

Woman and child in Mozambique. Source: UN Photo gallery Flickr

If I were to ask you what is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Africa without any fear of social judgement, what would you say? The Lion King, poverty, coups, corruption, civil war, tribalism, zebras, and rhinos are all valid and understandable answers that most Westerners would respond with, including the writer of this article.

Whether it be through mainstream media, Disney movies, or controversial headlines, the West has looked at the African continent through a pitiful yet indifferent orientalist lens for centuries. While the opinion of Westerners might seem irrelevant at first glance, this destructive narrative that captivates our minds and hinders our natural curiosity heavily impacts African politics and the continent’s fight for democracy and human rights.

How the West Views Africa and Why It Matters

Westerners often have a depiction of the African continent as one large country, stripping a continent with 54 independent nations with numerous languages, religions, and traditions of all its diversity. This is quite specific to Africa as most Westerners understand that China and Japan or Argentina and Brazil have different political systems, languages, and social norms despite sharing a continent full of problems.

An African not often imagined: Port Luis. Photo source: The Africa Report

When the main headlines about Africa that dominate the news echo notions such as “why is Africa so poor” and “why is Africa constantly unstable,” it minimizes the entire continent in the minds of readers to a place ridden with poverty and tribal warfare. Such a notion implies this extremely diverse and complex region is one of one people with one set of problems. Therefore, an accurate understanding of any part of Africa is impossible to reach through this lens as the cultural and political differences between Nigerians, South Africans, and Egyptians are not taken into account.

A well-decorated Political Scientist and Professor at UC Davis who preferred to remain anonymous explained how the negative view shown in the media is also heavily impacted by Africa’s long-standing history with colonialism which has created several different social and economic cleavages in Africa. Likewise, Africa as a whole suffers greatly from a dangerous narrative of orientalism, described by renowned Palestinian intellectual Edward Said as a narrative that emphasizes, exaggerates, and distorts differences between Western culture and the Eastern world. Orientalism is what makes Westerners think of famine, corruption, and tribalism when thinking of Africa which degrades and generalizes African cultures.

The exaggeration of these differences is as powerful as it is inflated to the extent that many Africans in countries with significant European influence like Tunisia and Egypt don’t even consider themselves African. The orientalist lens that promotes Western culture as superior has many identify more with the ‘civilized’ European culture rather than the cultures they themselves are a part of.

When this is the picture the mainstream media paints, it becomes far easier for oppressive African governments to attack and discredit political opposition and Western governments are less likely to pay attention to growing problems in the region, as shown with the disregard of the continent during the vaccine race. The mixture of pity, superiority, indifference, and orientalism tailors a dangerous narrative that depicts all Africans as poor, pitiful, tribal people that have always been and will continue to be cursed with famine, war, and all things unstable.

However, a glaring question remains unanswered…

Are These Narratives True?

There is no question that the African continent has no shortage of poverty, civil war, and political instability. When we look to the present day, we see several disturbing developments. Sudan has recently experienced a military coup where the military took control of the transitional government tasked with moving the country on the democratic path, removing civilian Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok and putting him under house arrest. Even after Hamdok was reinstated after signing an agreement with the military to restart the democratic transitions, many still speculate the Military’s willingness to allow a transition to democracy and civilian rule.

Tunisia, the starlight of hope from the Arab Spring that has been considered one of the freest African nations in recent years, also experienced a severe form of democratic backsliding after President Kaïs Saïed dissolved parliament last summer and expanded his own powers. Even Africa’s three largest nations are facing serious demons with Ethiopia plagued in a deadly civil war, pro-democracy activists in Nigeria unable to hold the government accountable for hiring thugs to kill protesters, and a continuous crackdown on all forms of political dissent in Egypt with thousands of journalists and human rights defenders unconstitutionally imprisoned in pre-trial detention.

Atop all of this, Africa still remains the continent with the highest rate of extreme poverty in the world. Such developments and facts are no doubt worrying and serious, but they in no way tell the whole story. The depiction of the entire continent as a homogenous, poverty stricken place, full of “shithole countries” with no hope for a better future is absurd.

To start, solely highlighting the most negative aspects of any region will automatically give a sense of hopelessness and despair. While it is extremely important to talk about the issues and troubles of a region, it cannot be the only time that African nations are mentioned in front-page articles. This focus when mixed with an unfair orientalist lens not only gives an inaccurate depiction of the region, but also robs Africans of their sense of dignity and ability to tell their own story.

When discussing the problems of the region, there must be an attempt to find a solution, not merely pointing out the struggles and worries. Another dangerous notion that is thrown around is that Africa has a deep history of political conflict and instability and therefore there is no hope for democratization. Yet prior to the second half of the 20th century, the same exact notion could’ve been said about Europe.

Nevertheless, a European continent, cursed with civil wars, poverty, and religious fundamentalism for hundreds of years was eventually able to move to a more prosperous political path that guarantees its citizens basic rights and liberties through public dissent followed by gradual political and social victories.

Can This Sort of Thing Happen in Africa?

Political dissent, revolution, and mass peaceful protests demanding increased political freedoms, economic reforms, and a path towards democracy have already happened across the continent for decades. The survey data by independent research center, the Afrobarometer, shows that a strong majority of Africans believe democracy is the best political system for their country.

Protests outside of Darfur university. Source: Flickr.

From Algeria to Zimbabwe and from Ghana to Kenya, activists, journalists, and human rights defenders have risked their lives for decades across the continent to advance democracy with little to no attention from Western media.

So if Africans are Fighting for Democracy, Why Aren’t We Hearing About It?

The key reason behind the survival of these dangerous narratives is their political benefit and convenience in the West. For the media, depicting Africa as a poor, homogenous, crisis-ridden region attracts clicks and is eaten up by western audiences. Politically, this narrative simultaneously gives Americans and Europeans a dose of both cultural superiority used by conservative parties that often tout the superiority of traditional Western values and a dose of pity and white guilt used by liberal parties that manipulate people’s sympathy to play identity politics.

In either form, this narrative is lucrative and continuous. As a result, what is put in the spotlight for Western audiences to view is an unfair, inaccurate, and dangerous narrative that makes global and local recognition and legitimacy hard to come by for the African revolutionaries who risk everything to defend the rights of their people.

So What Can We Do?

Just as constant rebellion and gradual improvements were the keys to moving European democracy forward, small victories and continued protests demanding civil liberties and democratic transition will move Africa on its desired path to democracy which is already happening in many parts of the continent. Countries like South Africa have seen surprising political changes in elections that have led to the fall of presidents and political powers that have dominated the political sphere for years, giving an opportunity for new and innovative political parties to have a chance at governing.

The mainstream media echoed notions of worry and fear of instability in South Africa with the African National Congress, the party of Nelson Mandela, losing more political power than ever before in South Africa.

African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela. Photo credit: ANACLETO RAPPING/AFP via Getty Images

But as the UC Davis Professor emphasizes, the most recent South African elections are exactly how democracy is supposed to work and should make us cautiously hopeful. South Africans have shown the ANC that they can no longer be complacent in power and that the people of South Africa will no longer blindly support their corrupt politicians who have failed to solve the country’s key issues.

In countries experiencing a decline in the quality of democracy like Tunisia and Sudan, where regimes threaten to reverse democratic momentum, the fearless reformers that were the spearheads of their countries respective revolutions continue to be a thorn in the side of these regimes by protesting en masse against the loss of their rights and their country’s future. Even in authoritarian countries where analysts often claim that revolutionary spirit has disappeared, small victories mean everything.

In Egypt, the victory of several NGOs in a decade-long legal battle to allow them to resume their activity in the country was seen by many as a beacon of hope. Along with the publication of “You Have Not Yet Been Defeated,” a book written by one of Egypt’s most influential intellectual and revolutionaries Alaa Abd el Fattah, into international literary markets despite Abd El Fattah being sentenced another 5 years in prison on sham charges, both developments revive and amplify the presence of political resistance, even if only symbolically.

Alaa Abdel Fattah | c. Middle East Monitor

The UC Davis professor also emphasized the importance of growing internet access across Africa giving young Africans needed tools to express themselves and understand the world around them better. In literature, Abdelrazak Gurnah’s surprising win of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2021 as the first African to win the prize since 1989 empowers many Africans to continue to tell the stories of their countries and communities despite the setbacks they face.

All these victories, even if minor, are baby steps towards a freer and more just Africa. In the West, all we need to do is try to curb the impact of the inaccurate and unfair narratives that have been thrown around and give the defenders of democracy the spotlight and recognition they deserve. As for the activists themselves, as Alaa Abd El Fattah explains in his book, “we always find a way.”

This article was first published on the Davis Political Review, and was written by Nour Taha. The Davis Political Review is a magazine dedicated to publishing political commentary for students, by students, with a focus on generating insightful and informative conversations about political issues taking place at the state, national, and international level. 

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American movie director longs to shoot movies in Africa – NewsDay

Jaron D “JD” Lawrence

BY Charles Myambo
GLOBALLY acclaimed American movie director and entrepreneur Jaron D “JD” Lawrence has reportedly earned close to US$100 million through his production work and other ventures.

He is well respected in Hollywood and widely regarded as one of the best movie directors for his genre worldwide. He has described Alpha Media Holding’s chairman Trevor Ncube as a media innovator and global thought leader.

United States-based NewsDay Life & Style correspondent Charles Myambo (ND) caught up with him.

ND: You are easily one of the greatest drama directors in Hollywood. How did you master the art of drama and comedy?

JDL: “I owe it all to God without him none of what I do would be possible. With regards to mastering the art, I still have so much more to learn. I am just enjoying the process.”

ND: There are some sources online which say you have made over US$100 million dollars from directing movies and from your various business ventures. Did you ever imagine making it this big?

JDL: “One hundred million? Tell them to send me my cheque. My imagination is limitless with thoughts, ideas etc, so with that in mind, I guess I have so much more to achieve creatively and financially.

“I am always looking for strategic financial partners.”

ND: You are one of the most down to earth people I know. How do you remain grounded given all the success you have realised over the past few decades?

JDL: “God”

ND: Is charity something that you feel strongly about and if so, how do you think you can inspire more people to do their part and help contribute to charity worldwide? What role does music have in charity awareness?

JDL: “Charity begins at home. I learned that a long time ago. There are so many philanthropic things that I personally want to do”.

ND: How do you feel about the continent of Africa and do you one day envisage hosting some of your shows or shooting a movie in Africa?

JDL: “That is like living with dad and someone asks you how you feel about mom. It is the motherland.  I love it.  Although I have never been, I want to go. I would love to do shows and shoot movies there.”

ND: Given your business acumen, I would like to know what you think of African business moguls like Nigerian billionaire Aliko Dangote, Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa, Zimbabwean media tycoon Trevor Ncube and Dr Divine Ndlukula?

JDL: “I don’t know them personally, I only know of them, but I would love to do business with them.

“Strive, Dr Divine and Dangote are well known for their fortunes and business acumen while Trevor on the other hand, despite being an astute businessman himself mainly stands out for being a media innovator and global thought leader”.

ND: Danai Gurira is a global sensation mostly known for her roles in Avengers Endgame, Black Panther and The Walking Dead. Thandie Newton is mostly known for her award-winning roles in Mission Impossible and Norbit. Both these actresses hail from Zimbabwe. What do you think about them?

JDL: “I am a fan of Danai and Thandie’s work. They are both super talented and I wish them continued success.

“I would absolutely love to work with them provided the opportunity presents itself.”

  • Follow us on Twitter @NewsDayZimbabwe

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Africa CDC warns possible new Covid variant amid spike in new cases – Social News XYZ

Africa CDC warns possible new Covid variant amid spike in new cases

Addis Ababa, May 20 (SocialNews.XYZ) There is a possibility that a new Covid variant would emerge in Africa in a foreseeable future, Ahmed Ogwell, the acting director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), has warned.

“The increase is a clear sign that there is (a) high possibility a new variant, which is more transmissible, is to appear,” Ogwell said during a weekly briefing Thursday.

According to figures from the Africa CDC, the African continent has seen a 36 per cent average increase of new COVID-19 cases over the past four weeks, with Central and Eastern Africa regions reporting increasing new COVID-19 cases by 113 and 54 per cent, respectively, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Africa CDC, the specialized healthcare agency of the African Union, called for increased testing to locate which part of the continent the new variant would be appearing in.

“We need to do more testing and sequencing so that we can be able to understand where the outbreaks are and identify what variant is emerging,” Ogwell said.

He also called for an enhanced vaccination rollout to sustainably address low vaccination service against the pandemic across the continent. “We are distinctively seeing increasing deaths due to the pandemic as cases are surging over the last four weeks.”

Five African countries reported the highest numbers of newly confirmed Covid cases over the last one week with South Africa reporting 50,404 cases, Tanzania 1,482, Namibia 1,054, Zimbabwe 910 and Burundi 817 cases, according to the acting director.

Source: IANS

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About Gopi

Gopi Adusumilli is a Programmer. He is the editor of SocialNews.XYZ and President of AGK Fire Inc.

He enjoys designing websites, developing mobile applications and publishing news articles on current events from various authenticated news sources.

When it comes to writing he likes to write about current world politics and Indian Movies. His future plans include developing SocialNews.XYZ into a News website that has no bias or judgment towards any.

He can be reached at [email protected]

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African scientists and technology could drive future black hole discoveries – NewsDay

Roger Deane/Iniyan Natarajan
ASTRONOMERS have revealed the first image of the black hole at the centre of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The image was produced by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration, an international team made up of over 300 scientists on five continents — including Africa.

Black holes were predicted by Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity over a century ago. They are regions of space so dense that nothing, including light, can escape. Their boundary is known as the event horizon, which marks the point of no return. That’s just one of the reasons these objects are hidden from our eyes. The other is that they are exceedingly small, when placed in their cosmic context. If our Milky Way galaxy were the size of a soccer field, its black hole event horizon would be a million times smaller than a pin prick at centrefield.

How, then, can one photograph them? Our team did so by capturing light from the hot swirling gas in the immediate vicinity of the black hole. This light, with a wavelength of 1 millimetre, is recorded by a global network of antennas that form a single, Earth-size virtual telescope.

The light looks rather like a ring, a characteristic signature that is the direct consequence of two key processes. First, the black hole is so dense that it bends the path of light near it. Second, it captures light that strays too close to the event horizon. The combined effect produces a so-called black hole shadow — a brightened ring surrounding a distinct deficit of light centred on the black hole. In the case of our Milky Way black hole, this ring has the apparent size of a doughnut on the moon, requiring an extraordinary engineering effort to bring it into focus.

The unveiling of an image of our black hole, Sagittarius A*, is not just a massive moment for science. It could also be an important catalyst for diversifying African astrophysics research using existing strengths. We were the only two of more than 300 EHT team members based on the African continent. The continent doesn’t host any EHT telescopes — we were brought on board because of the expertise we have developed in preparation for the world’s largest radio telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), to be co-hosted by South Africa and Australia.

Why the image is important

This is not the first time a black hole image has captured people’s attention. We were also members of the team that captured the first ever image of a black hole in 2019 (this one is at the centre of a different galaxy, Messier 87, which is 55 million light years away). It has been estimated that more than 4,5 billion people saw that image. Sagittarius A* has also dominated headlines and captured people’s imaginations.

But there’s more to this result than just an incredible image. A plethora of rich scientific results has been described in ten publications by the team. Here are three of our primary highlights.

First, the image is a remarkable validation of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. The EHT has now imaged two black holes with masses that differ by a factor of over 1 000. Despite the dramatic difference in mass, the measured size and shape are consistent with theoretical predictions.

Second, we have now imaged black holes with very different environments. A wealth of prior research over the past two or three decades shows strong empirical evidence that galaxies and their black holes co-evolve over cosmic time, despite their completely disparate sizes. By zooming into the event horizon of black holes in giant galaxies like M87, as well as more typical galaxies like our own Milky Way, we learn more about how this seemingly implausible relationship between the black hole and its host galaxy plays out.

Third, the image provides us with new insights on the central black hole in our own galactic home. It is the nearest such beast to Earth, so it provides a unique laboratory to understand this interplay — not unlike scrutinising a tree in your own garden to better understand the forests on the distant horizon.

Southern Africa’s geographic advantage

We are proud to be part of the team that produced the first black hole images. In future, we believe South Africa, and the African continent more broadly (including a joint Dutch-Namibian initiative), could play a critical role in making the first black hole

As has been the case with the country’s key role in paleoanthropology, there are contributions to global astronomy that can only be made from South African soil. Sagittarius A* lies in the southern sky, passing directly above South Africa. That is a major reason this image of the Milky Way’s centre, taken by the MeerKAT (a precursor to the SKA) is the best there is.

South Africa also has well-established infrastructure at its astronomical sites, which are protected by legislation. And it has world-class engineers at the forefront of their craft. This makes for low-cost, high-performance telescopes delivered on time and to budget.

New technology is also on our side: a cutting-edge simultaneous multi-frequency receiver design, pioneered by our Korean colleagues, means that EHT sites no longer need to be the most pristine, high-altitude locations on Earth.

All the elements are in place for a dramatic increase in the number of young Africans who participate in this new era of black hole imaging and precision tests of gravity. In the coming years, we hope to be writing about findings that couldn’t have been made without technology on South African soil, as well as African scientists leading high-impact, high-visibility EHT science in synergy with our multi-wavelength astronomy and high-energy astrophysics programmes.

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