How We See Africa

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The skyline of Nairobi, Kenya, an image we often don't see of Africa. Journalist Scott Baldauf writes about the myths he encountered while covering Africa for the Christian Science Monitor.
The skyline of Nairobi, Kenya. Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina wrote about how Africa is often portrayed as a place of hunger, tribal people and safaris.

In 2005, Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina published a satirical article in Granta, headlined, "How to Write about Africa." He wrote:

"Always use the word Africa, darkness or safari in your title. Treat Africa as if it were one country. It is hot and dusty. Tall thin people who are starving. Or hot and steamy, short people who eat primates. Never have a picture of a well-adjusted African on the cover of your book, or in it, unless that African has won a Nobel Peace Prize. An AK-47, prominent ribs, naked breasts: use these. And always end your book with Nelson Mandela saying something about rainbows or renaissances. because you care."

It was satire, but isn't that all we hear out of Africa-- and is the media to blame? Because the media is also criticized for not drawing attention to, say Somalia, now suffering a drought and civil war.

Scott Baldauf knows the frustration. He's just completed five years as the Christian Science Monitor's correspondent in South Africa, and reflects on some of the misconceptions about the continent in an essay headlined "Five Myths About Africa."


  • Scott Baldauf, former Africa correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor

This segment aired on September 19, 2011.


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