Twitter users are taking it out on The Economist magazine for the choice of photo the magazine used for an article titled on extreme poverty titled “Extreme poverty is growing rarer”.
A tweet sent with a link to the article also comes with a narrative that’s all too familiar when so called western media wants to talk about Africa or the subject of poverty. For some time, Africans have sought to fight what they call “an unfair depiction of Africa in western media” and the stigmatization of Africa as a poor and wretched continent.
The displeasure registered against the picture and narrative may seem like textbook denialism because when you face the fact, Africa is the poorest of the continents on the planet and what better way is there to showcase a human problem than to point to where the problem is worst?
But there’s a little problem with that.
The May 13th, 2000 issue of The Economist became famous for symbolizing how Africa is represented in the Western media. That week’s cover, which boldly described Africa as the “Hopeless Continent,” the lead article stated: “The new millennium has brought more disaster than hope to Africa. Worse, the few candles of hope are flickering weakly.”
This representation of Africa in Western media has persisted since the late nineteenth century during the era of slavery and colonialism.
The Economist is not alone in fact.
Africa has been portrayed as the needy, dark, and “hopeless” continent characterized by primeval irrationality, tribal anarchy, civil war, political instability, flagrant corruption, incompetent leadership and managerial ineptitude, hunger, famine and starvation as well as rampant diseases for centuries now and all the while they ignore the social and economic processes that occur on the continent.
This representation also ignores the many political and economic success stories that have been taking place in the continent, especially in the last three decades because while the Economist was busily preparing to print the May 13th issue, Ghana was getting ready to go through its first democratic transition after 8 years of democratic rule under Jerry John Rawlings.
Although how Western media represents Africa has received a lot of academic and media coverage over the years, what is remarkable is that the issue stills persists even today and western media, led by the Economist, are not about to apologize.
— ✨ Asmara ✨ (@10_asmara) September 24, 2018