Canada likes Africa’s “new image”

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper receives the Great Cross of the National Order of the Lion of Senegal from the hands of Senegal President Macky Sall (October 12, 2012).

After spending its first six years in power largely ignoring the continent, the Conservative Party of Canada has finally “discovered” Africa. Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper undertook a four-day trip to Senegal and the DRC—only his second trip to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office in 2006, and his first in five years.

Harper’s policies have (at least rhetorically) emphasized government belt tightening. Accordingly, the Conservatives have repeatedly cut Canada’s foreign aid commitments in order to focus on priorities such as lowering the budget deficit and buying $25 billion worth of fighter jets. Given their espoused economic policy focus, it is not surprising that the Conservatives sought to portray the Prime Minister’s recent trip as focused not on delivering foreign aid, but on promoting international trade.

The Canadian press largely embraced this narrative: “Africa no longer needs your help. It needs your investment,” read the first line of one article.

“These days Africa has a new image,” a Harper spokesman explained in a newspaper interview during the trip. “It has emerged as the region with the world’s second-highest growth rate … Wars and coups are declining, foreign investment is soaring, and democracy is expanding.”

Yes, it appears as though the “Africa rising” narrative has reached the halls of the Canadian Parliament.

This narrative was readily apparent in a speech given by Ed Fast, the Minister of International Trade, at a press conference following Harper’s trip. “There are more cell phones in Africa than India,” he noted, in announcing a 2013 trade mission to Ghana and Nigeria.

While Harper did announce an aid package during his visit to Dakar, he mostly focused on expanding the two countries’ trade relationship. A few days earlier, John Baird, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, had undertaken a similar trip to Lagos and Abuja, announcing—using a metaphor surely familiar to all Nigerians—that Canada would seek to increase its commercial ties with Nigeria because that was where the “puck” of the international economy was “going to be” in the future.

The other stop on Harper’s trip proved rather difficult to fit into the narrative of an emergent Africa ripe for Canadian investment: From Senegal, Harper traveled to the DRC to participate in the annual summit of La Francophonie. Harper used his speeches at the summit to rebuke the Congolese government, telling a gathering of opposition and civil society leaders, “We’re concerned about many things in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including … violations of human rights, difficulties, problems (and) unfairness in some of the electoral process.”

Again, the Canadian media were content to play along with this narrative. “Stephen Harper enters Africa’s heart of darkness,” read one headline.

The rhetoric surrounding the Prime Minister’s trip last week, then—both from government spokespeople and from the press—demonstrated a troubling bifurcation, a dividing of Africa into “good” and “bad” states. This portrayal, it should go without saying, is overly simplistic. The DRC has demonstrated strong economic growth and increased foreign investment, while Nigeria has struggled with sectarian violence and popular dissatisfaction with President Goodluck Jonathan’s policies. Neither of these facts is captured in a straightforward labeling of Nigeria as a “good” trade partner and the DRC as a “bad” human rights violator.

While it may not be politically wise to discuss Nigeria’s continued political problems at the same time as promoting increased trade with the country, or to encourage investment in the DRC while rebuking Joseph Kabila’s human rights record, one hopes that, behind closed doors, Canada’s policy toward Africa less resembles the simplistic media coverage of this past week than Prime Minister Harper’s public statements would seem to suggest.

* Nicholas Barber is a doctoral student in the Department of Anthropology at McGill University in Montreal. His research interests include representations of Africa and Africans in Western media, indigenous film and video. He has worked on development projects in Ghana and Lesotho and for the Film and Video Center of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian in New York City.

Comments

comments

32 Comments
  1. Thanks for posting this. As a Canadian living in Toronto, the only way I, or anyone else can get accurate reporting on Africa is to follow either sites like this, African newspapers and other sites, or international papers because Canada does not have any foreign corespondents in any African country. Our papers get their feeds from either Reuters or the AP, and that partly explains why Canadian papers would be in more or less lock step with each other on message: they have no other point of view, unfortunately. And yes, you got it right when you summerized the Harper governments agenda by focusing on the deficit (by purchasing $25 billion worth of fighter gets, cutting foreign aid, gutting our environmental commitments….)

  2. Oh, and because Harper has got about the same impression of the UN as the US does (remember, we lost our seat on the UN security council because of Harper’s hawkish position in global affairs) , he wouldn’t have stopped for a second to consider the UNs findings that claim that Rwanda and Uganda have both being supporting M23 in DRC, thereby contributing to the destabilzation of the country.

  3. It’s always fun for scholars to bash the media, but Barber’s article (and the comments by Purdy) are ignoring the facts. The Globe and Mail, the leading national newspaper of Canada, does in fact have a bureau in Africa — that’s me, based in Johannesburg — and we’ve painted a complex picture of Africa that goes far beyond the “simplistic” notions of Barber’s commentary. My recent 6-part series on Africa’s economic growth, for example, showed both the negative and positive side of that growth, looking at how foreign investment has both helped and hurt ordinary Africans. It was the product of months of research from cities and villages across Africa, and it called for a more intelligent approach to aid and investment in Africa. We’ve never portrayed Africa as a collection of “good” and “bad” countries. Read it yourself: http://www.tgam.ca/africa-next
    It’s fine to bash CBC for its “heart of darkness” report — in fact I criticized it myself — but please make some distinctions among the media rather than tarring everyone with the same brush. The CBC recently closed its last bureau in Africa, but The Globe and Mail still devotes resources to a full-time bureau in Africa. Simplistic generalizations about the media are as likely to be wrong as simplistic generalizations about Africa.

    1. I cannot comment on this particular issue as I have not done enough reading to be able to, but in general I believe the Globe and Mail does a decent job.

    2. My mistake on the foreign correspondent bit. I was under the impression, that Canadian newspapers and TV networks had closed all of their African offices. Sorry to Geoffrey York for the misstep.

      1. Perhaps this is because this correspondent isnt doing his job? One man for an entire continent? Canada ignores Africa period. But mines..

    3. Thanks Geoffrey for you comment. As you can see from my post, when I refer to “simplistic” media coverage of Africa, I’m talking specifically about coverage of the Prime Minister’s trip. When it comes to Canadian press coverage of Africa more generally, I agree that there is some more nuanced reporting available, though, as Jared point out, regrettably this tends to be the exception rather than the rule. I haven’t read you series, but look forward to doing so.

    4. Why so defensive Geoffrey York? The truth is, Canada’s public and private media, print and electronic, have, historically, been woeful when it comes to the coverage of Africa, the African diaspora (including the United States and the Caribbean), and, for that matter Black or African Canada. One white bureau chief in Joburg hardly constitutes serious coverage — especially as another commentator pointed out, of an entire continent — nor does a six part series. As for Stephen Harper, that man deserves no comment.

  4. Actually, Nicholas, you generalized inaccurately about the Canadian media, saying that they were “content to play along” with the Harper government’s “narrative” about Africa. In fact there were plenty of Canadian media reports that questioned Harper’s decision to attend the Francophonie summit in Kinshasa, especially since he was simultaneously threatening to boycott the next Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka on similar human-rights concerns. And if you wanted coverage of Congo as an economic-growth story, you only need to glance at my own newspaper, where I’ve written several major stories about that exact topic this year, looking at the positives and negatives of Congo’s growth.
    Moreover, to focus on the Harper trip as an example of Africa coverage is to choose a highly misleading metric for measuring the Canadian media. Unsurprisingly, the Canadian media who travel with the prime minister are normally focused on the prime minister, rather than Africa — especially since there were domestic issues to cover, including Harper’s first meeting with the new premier of Quebec (which took place at the Francophonie summit in Congo). In fact, a prime ministerial visit is essentially a domestic story, covered by the Ottawa-based press corps, not a foreign story, and to expect otherwise is a misunderstanding of how the media works. During any prime ministerial visit anywhere in the world, the media have to focus on the prime minister, not the country he is visiting. Their job is to cover his events and speeches, to cover Canada-Africa policy issues, and to ask tough questions to Harper and his entourage.
    It seems odd that you would accuse the media of “playing along” with Harper’s “narrative” while ignoring all of the ongoing Africa coverage in Canada’s biggest national newspaper.

    1. Hmm. I thought I was pretty clear that when I referred to the media’s being “content to go along” with Harper’s narrative I was referring to the reporters covering the trip. I’m not sure what I wrote that led you to believe I was generalizing about Canadian media coverage of Africa as a whole. The last sentence of the post, for instance, talks about the “simplistic media coverage of *this past week*.”

      I understand perfectly that most of those covering the trip were Canada-based political reporters, rather than Africa-based foreign correspondents. (I actually had a paragraph about Pauline Marois, but cut it as it was tangential to the main point and likely not that interesting to non-Canadian readers.) The point of the post isn’t to critique Canadian media coverage of Africa as a whole. Rather, I am pointing out that the Harper government put forward a very simplistic narrative about his trip, one which was largely taken up by the reporters covering the trip, and that if Harper’s press narrative is in any way indicative of how his government conceives of foreign policy as it relates to Africa, then this is immensely concerning. The main target of critique here is the Harper government, not the Canadian press.

  5. I still disagree. The central “narrative” of the Harper trip (and indeed the main purpose of his trip, since Dakar was a stop along the way) was his attendance at the Francophonie summit. And there was plenty of pushback from the media on his decision to attend the summit, with many journalists noting the inconsistency in his threatened boycott of the Commonwealth summit while he was simultaneously attending a summit in a country with an equally bad human rights record. I don’t see any evidence that the media were “content to play along” with the Harper narrative.

    1. The narrative in question here is the narrative of “good” states (Senegal, Nigeria) vs. “bad” states (DRC). This narrative was in no way challenged by any of the reporting I have read about the summit. Indeed, the most stereotypical portrayals of the DRC often came in articles that were critical of Harper’s decision to attend. While you’re right that these reports pushed back against Harper in that they critiqued his decision to attend the La Francophonie, none of the articles I’ve read pushed back against the idea that the Congo was a “bad” state that deserved to be chastised, rather than traded with.

  6. None of the media said “Senegal is good” or “Congo is bad.” But certainly we noted that Senegal has a much better record on democratic elections and human rights than the DRC. Is there something that you dispute about that statement?
    Senegal’s peaceful democratic transition in 2012 was quite a remarkable and impressive event. Should that not have been mentioned in the media coverage of Harper’s visit to Africa?
    Actually it would be helpful, for this discussion, if you could say what you wanted from the media, or (a separate issue) from the Harper government. You’ve criticized both, but it’s unclear what you think the media or the government should have done differently. Some specific recommendations would be nice, so that we have a sense of your own beliefs, rather than just vague complaints.
    Of course it’s common for scholars to complain that the media “lack nuance” or are “simplistic.” But keep in mind that it’s difficult to have a lot of scholarly nuance in 600-word articles or 90-second reports. There’s room for nuance in our longer articles or series, and that’s where your critique might be more valuable.

  7. Hmmmm. Not sure I agree with Geoffrey York about Globe and Mail reportage on Africa. Perhaps his is not quite as bad as “Africa-on-the-Rise” Nicolas Kristoff of the NYT, but let’s be honest and admit that the editorial policy of his newspaper has swung further and further to the right in recent years and thus influences what and how it reports. Indeed, any mainstream Canadian reportage on the continent is decidedly generalised, full of stereotypes, tired and predictable economic analysis and the never ending fingerpointing about corruption and human rights abuse and hapless leadership (particularly when it doesn’t follow the Western rules of engagement). In my opinion there is very little reporting on Africa coming out of this country that is nuanced or offers much but the continued “othering” of the continent and its peoples. Geoffrey York might be the Canadian print media correspondent last standing, but does this guarantee we get other than copy driven by the overarching editorial policy of the G and M? Sorry Geoffrey, but perhaps if you want to deliver the nuance and contextual writing that many many many of us want to read, you might consider working outside the mainstream press. No excuse to blame the media for its soundbite/column per inch guidelines when you are part and parcel of the machine. If you are stuck in that hole or worse, embedded with the prime minister and his entourage (and thus beholden to report on him rather than the issues), then you chose to be there or climb out.

    As for Stephen Harper, well he can accept all the accolades from leaders (African and otherwise) that his government (and its virulently corporate backers) do business with, but this does little to veil the Tory’s decidedly neo-con foreign policy and their interest in doing big business in natural resource-rich countries for the benefit of Canadian mining giants, who currently have a less than salubrious reputation for their invasive and deplorable human resource practices. We cannot expect a other than a simplistic narrative from this government or its bullheaded leader, who has a very narrow vision of what a working democracy should be. The Canadian government’s interest in the continent is decidedly economic and has little to do with acknowledgment of human rights abuses. The Tories fail to recognize a human rights abuse in their own country (read the government’s recent refugee policy, it’s lip service to indigenous peoples, its eroding of social welfare, education and health care rights, or its unwavering support of Apartheid Israel). Nuff said!

    1. “but let’s be honest and admit that the editorial policy of his newspaper has swung further and further to the right in recent years and thus influences what and how it reports.”

      This is true. The vehemence with which mr york comes here, talking about his “many stories” (without links too) is so typical of the online responses of Canadian right wingers. I live in Toronto and have seen his name on G&M and never once got the sense he was that paper’s “Africa correspondent”.

      Where is he based in J’burg? A Toronto condo over there?

    2. Sh!t, Ms. Meeson, thank you very much! I have to admit I felt a little stupid/embarrassed for stating that Canada had no foreign correspondents in Africa, and in that moment I felt more compelled to own up to my mistake than do any further analysis. I definitely read that somewhere, and within the last few months. Anyways, your analysis is bang on, and the G&M has always been more of a mouth piece for big business and Canadian international trade interests, with little in the way of socio-political analysis. It should not be surprising that Harper would chastise the leader of a foreign country, while he was visiting there, all the while ignoring what the UN has had to say about Rwanda (and to a lesser extent Uganda) meddling in DRCs’ affairs – as if there is no connection at all. The alternative media has a more illustrative and nuanced vision of these events, in my opinion, and that is why I follow it. I don’t feel as though I am being spoon fed. With mainstream media I am reminded of Manufacturing Consent, there is seldom if ever any kind of real historical analysis that would frame the issues for readers. The present has no history.

  8. There are ample examples of Geoff York’s writing online. Just Google him. He is Africa Bureau Chief for the Globe and Mail, based in Joburg. Whether he lives in a condo there or here is really not my interest. But to be sure there are scholarly types, journalists among them – though Mr York appears to make a clear distinction between the two – writing nuanced pieces and challenging the pervasive colonial gaze that shapes the vast majority of mainstream news and current events reporting in and about Africa. This blog is a great example, as are publications (online and in print) such as Chimurenga Magazine – particularly its publication THE CHRONIC, featuring some really sterling long-form journalism, and Kwani (based in Nairobi).

  9. Still awaiting some fact-based debate on this site. Happy to engage with anyone who has actually read my articles and would like to discuss the issues…. And no, I don’t live in a condo….

    1. Mr. York,, there are legions of references to which you dismiss as academic or scholarly that contradict the premise of your piece, There is a sub-text to your article that Ms. Meeson illuminates.. Most of us would interpret your criticisms of alternative media as “arm chair revolutionaries”, I don’t accept that. Because you are a journalist working for a corporate based newspaper somehow makes you immune to any corporate bias? I seriously doubt that as well. When I read your series, I see little in the way of any historical analysis, and the devil is always in the details. Reading your piece, I feel that I am re-visiting an African version of Eduardo Galeanos’ Open Veins of Latin America or Naom Chomsky’s The Political Economy of Human Rights Vol 1, both of which were written in the early 80’s. Most of us who spend our lives looking at global development issues – anywhere – would not mention KFC as a measurement of success, it would not be mentioned as an indicator of anything other than dumbing down. We know, we are there. You need to check your measurements of success, and development, and then measure them against Africa’s, particularly those in Africa who’s stories do not get told.

      1. ah, yes! There is no higher mission than that of people of African descent appealing to a white man for verification of the history of racism and pleading with him to acknowledge the distorted legacies of racist representations in the white man’s media! It’s why we’re here!

        On another tip, Yasmin Jiwani once noted that “newsrooms across the country are largely white and male.” But who cares? She’s a griping academic — and a brown woman, too boot — so forget her. And ignore her analysis! http://www.stopracism.ca/content/racism-and-media

        Enjoy Africa, Mr. Yorke! They have some delicious wines! Try “Obama of Africa”! And bring a case back to cottage country when you return!

    2. Actually Geoffrey it is not about your writing, but about the broader “media” landscape into which it fits quite neatly. The condo comment was a bit of a cheap shot, but I think yours about fact-based debate on this site is equally so. You just tweeted that this site keeps a few journalists on their toes, so don’t assume that those of us who follow it regularly are not going to step on yours from time to time. I have read some of your work, though I do not subscribe to the Globe and Mail and frankly find reporting on Africa in general sorely lacking in depth and context. In one of your more recent pieces on artisanal mining you write at length and offer some graphic imagery of the hardships that children and women in particular face: their “grimy” “tattered” state of being or their “crude” use of marijuana to ease pain of their working conditions, the “furious mob” that threatens to attack any guard who tries to interfere with their daily grind. The language is steeped in negative stereotypes of Africans that have been highlighted, interrogated and criticised at length by writers, thinkers and journalists who attempt to produce reportage to the contrary. Much less copy, however, is devoted to an analyis of the fact that people are forced into this kind of labour by poverty that is perpetuated by the business models of multinational corporations and their local partners, the real beneficiaries of this kind of “investment”. Cheap and marginalized and dangerous labour is just that … but it does wonders for the profit margin of elites, be they local construction companies, unamed “foreign” companies or what you call “controversial entrepreneurs” like Robert Friedland. May I suggest a follow up article on the terrible practices of Canadian mining companies in Africa and elsewhere, an analysis of how exactly companies like KICO or magnates like Robert Friedland actually invest their spiraling profits for the benefit of other than those who tow their financial bottom line. You might find space for a line or two about their attire, how many children they have and how these have been educated, not forgetting to quote their daily wage in USD. Contextualising the “trickle-down” effect of big mining, using KICO as an example, would be instructive, so that we are not asked to swallow as “fact”, the predictably vague and frankly dismissive “statement” from their spin doctors that you paraphrase briefly (in support of “balanced reporting?) on page 3 of the online article. Your readers might well have more experience and knowledge and suss than you think they do. I, for example, spent 26 years living and working as a media/communications freelancer in Johannesburg, as a sub-editor and occasional features writer for all the mainstream papers in that country and have a not-too-shabby understanding of the socio-political landscape of the country and the often purile and sensationalist reporting that comes off the mainstream presses. My understanding of FACT in newspaper reportage: however clear it is, it can be, and frequently is, spun and massaged and manipulated and subliminally shifted by language, tone, use of stereotypical descriptives, choice of headlines and pull quotes, to name a few tricks of the trade. The end product is read and vetted by the editor who tows the company line and has the first and last say as to whether the piece is run. The media in Canada is no different. Stories are cherry picked for their value to sell the product. Focus is on stories that pull at heartstrings, generate reaction rather than reflection and/or perpetuate bias or an appetite for intrigue. Less and less time, money and effort goes into producing news that is otherwise intended. I would argue that you, as a veteran correspondent for Canada’s largest national daily and obviously a seasoned news hound, cannot honestly or factually debate otherwise.

      1. Ms. Meeson — thank you for actually reading my article about child miners in Katanga province of the DRC. It’s a refreshing change from others who prefer to make sweeping generalizations about the media without bothering to read the stories. It’s odd that some people believe that every journalist is sitting in a “Toronto condo” when I’ve got a long record of traveling to difficult parts of the world to document important issues.
        However, you missed the fact that my article (and many others that I’ve written about the mining industry and foreign investment) went far beyond the stereotypes that you dislike. It’s actually an investigation of exploitation by corporate buyers that contains exactly the kinds of critiques and analysis that people here have been calling for. Here’s the link for others to check for themselves: http://bit.ly/MDTjis
        The article includes an analysis of the economics of global mining, and how 15 per cent of global gold production is produced by small-scale miners in horrific unregulated conditions that sicken and injure the workers who produce it. Anyone who has consumed gold jewelry (including perhaps some readers of this site?) is complicit in an industry that depends on artisanal mining by workers in terrible conditions, which I document in the article.
        As for Canadian mining companies, I’ve written extensively about them, including a 4000-word analysis last year on Barrick Gold and its mining operations in Tanzania where many villagers have been killed. I visited Tanzanian villages and interviewed those who were shot by police who were defending Barrick’s property. Here’s a link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/rob-magazine/barricks-tanzanian-project-tests-ethical-mining-policies/article559188/?page=all
        By the way, it contains exactly the kind of analysis of “the profit margins of the elite” that you have been demanding. Please read it and you will see.
        I could spend all day listing the articles I’ve written on corporate issues, but here’s another recent one about “land grabs” by foreign corporations in Africa:
        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/land-rush-leaves-liberias-farmers-in-the-dust/article4570938/
        And an article about sexual abuse at Barrick mine sites in Tanzania and Papua New Guinea:
        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/claims-of-sexual-abuses-in-tanzania-blow-to-barrick-gold/article598557/
        And an interrogation of Barrick’s version of what happened when five villagers were gunned down at its North Mara mine site in Tanzania:
        http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/in-an-african-mine-the-lust-for-gold-sparks-a-deadly-clash/article598554/

        Yes, my employer is a corporation. Does that restrict my ability to write about corporations? In my experience, it has not. But read the articles and judge for yourself.
        By the way, I’m not arguing that the “mainstream media” is superior in any way to other people who write about Africa. I think most of us value good information from any source, including scholars and civil society activists, who I quote regularly. But good investigative reporting in Africa has to come from a variety of places. If the “mainstream media” can provide some of this reporting, it’s odd that some people would reject it so sweepingly. It’s all part of the diversity of information that we need as readers.
        Also, it would be interesting to know if people share the opinion of one commenter on this site who believes that the skin color of the writer is relevant. Do they agree that only black people should write about Africa? Would they extrapolate this and argue that only Chinese should write about China? That only Americans should write about America? That only businessmen should write about corporations?

  10. Geoffrey, I’m just trying to understand your viewpoint. When you ask if “people share the opinion…that the skin color of the writer is relevant,” does this mean for you that race is irrelevant when discussing media in Africa? Because doesn’t race always matter, in every human interaction? In an ideal world race would be totally unimportant but given that we can only live in the world we live in, I feel we must acknowledge the reality–that race matters for everyone. The sad reality is that on the whole, Western societies favor lighter skinned people (and unfortunately it’s the same case in African countries I have been in). Can you deny that? To say that race matters is not to say that “only black people should write about Africa” or that “only Americans should write about America,” or Geoffrey York shouldn’t be the Globe and Mail’s Africa correspondent. It is to simply acknowledge a fact.

    1. Yes, Geoffrey, I think you opted for the knee-jerk-foot-in-mouth defense that white people are famous for. If you haven’t already, you might want to check out the Afrika Freedom Station in Westdene. Steve Kwena Mokwena and co. host a series that focuses on talking about race beyond the pedestrian context in which it is perpetually framed in the mainstream media. Strong intellects, committed activists and more than a few writers and journos gather in comfort, outside the comfort zone, to try to get to grips with challenging questions. Great jazz on offer too.

      1. Of course I’m not saying that “race is irrelevant.” I’m just suggesting that people should judge the work of a writer on the basis of whether the work is good or not. Is it accurate, truthful, insightful, original? If so, then it shouldn’t matter too much if the writer is black or white or a blogger or a “mainstream media” employee or anything else. Judge the work, rather than making assumptions about the writer in advance.
        If we begin with a prejudice about writers, based on their skin color or who they work for, then surely there’s a risk that we’re missing good sources of information. If the work is good, we should be open-minded about the source. Good work can come from surprising places. And we’re all allies in the search for interesting truthful writing, aren’t we?

        1. It’s the legacy of the colonial white gaze Geoffrey…. you work and live on the African continent and can’t be blind to it when you see fit. As a white educated male you have never been judged first and foremost on the colour of your skin, never had that be the condition on which almost everything about you is premised, never been at the receiving end of systemic racism. You can’t demand a clean slate and a context that undercuts or denies history, because the playing field is not near level and the inequities of Apartheid and colonial exploitation remain and the Canadian government and its supporters are actively upholding and perpetrating these by doing business as usual and white people (men in the main) are still at the helm. Ask yourself how many African foreign correspondents report on North America – independently of the AP or Reuters wire? How many bureau chiefs from Africa are working on the international scene? Look around you…. right there in Joburg and ask yourself who is actually in control of the business at hand. And why be surprised that the fact that you are in the paid employ of the Globe and Mail, and its chief correspondent for the ENTIRE continent, makes some of us read critically and cautiously. Africa is NOT a country and you can’t possibly cover adequately or in nuanced fashion the depth and breadth of socio-political events from the Cape to Cairo. Moreover, your editor is increasingly right wing and the editorial line of the paper is similar. The paper is NOT taking big business, BIG OIL, Stephen Harper or any of his cronies (here or there) to meaningful task about practices that affect millions of people. The Globe and Mail is only half a step behind the National Post in my humble opinion. Despite your years of experience, your stated commitment to ethical journalism and your laudable attempts to report objectively, your race and class perspective come through in your stories. The deck can’t be forever stacked in your favour… so get used to being challenged and questioned and queried and hauled over the coals… especially when you engage with young, smart and critically thinking individuals on blogs like this one.

      2. I’m happy to be challenged and questioned, and I hope you’re equally happy that I’m taking the time to discuss what you say. My main objection is the factual mistakes in what you say. For example you assume that “your editor is right-wing” and that my editors dictate my coverage. Sorry, that’s flat wrong. Our editor, in fact, is our former New Delhi and development-beat correspondent who wrote a book about global poverty. Calling him “right-wing” is simply inaccurate. And our editors have never dictated the ideological slant of what I write, so there’s another factual error. Third, I’m not the correspondent for “an entire continent” or “from the Cape to Cairo” — that’s another factual error, since I write about sub-Saharan Africa, not North Africa. Fourth, nobody ever claimed that a single correspondent can “cover” all of sub-Saharan Africa, and we’ve never made that claim. But having a full-time correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa is far better than having none — surely you would agree with that. Finally, you ask who is “actually in control” of the media industry in Africa. Have you forgotten that black entrepreneurs such as Trevor Ncube and Tokyo Sexwale are significant owners in the media sector in southern Africa? Not to mention SABC and SaFM, the biggest media outlets in South Africa. Why do you assume that the “colonial gaze” is controlling the African media?

  11. This is just my opinion as African American, so I am a third party I guess but I have to say i find this article too negative and a little childish. What is wrong with getting rid of aid and promoting trade? That is a good thing and a big step forward. And it’s not clear whether the author wanted the prime minister to criticize countries or not or apparently he has to do it with the proper amount of sophistication, which is nit picky. And either way why would you care if Canada pays attention to Africa or not, who cares what Canada thinks?

    1. Mike Q, I think quite a number of Canadians (and other human beings) care what the neo-conservative agenda of the government means for countries in Africa and others around the world, just as you probably care what the Obama (or Romney?) administration, their corporate backers and media apologists do or will do with your tax dollars and in your name under the guise of “defending America” (neither a pretty legacy nor a hopeful future scenario). Or maybe you don’t, but since you are on this site, I doubt that very much. I am not a patriot or a believer in the current system dubbed “democracy” in North America. But I think everyone has a responsibility to think critically, to act on progressive principles and fight injustice and abuse. It’s how struggles for liberation (in all their complexity and diversity) begin and continue…. and continue…. and continue. I assume that as an African American you acknowledge that the struggles of black people in your country are far far from over. If more than the tiny minority of North Americans would get off the sofa, raise their voices, put words into action and challenge the status quo that ensures that an even tinier minority are the benefactors and the beneficiaries of far too much at the expense of the majority, then they might be able to honestly experience and defend “freedom”. As it is currently spoonfed and regurgitated, any declaration of “freedom” is disingenuous.

      1. Well again i think you are being overly negative. You are basically saying that trade is bad and aid aka begging is good. IMO it’s good that Canada wants to stop aid and increase trade, that’s good by any standard. When you trade, usually its as an equal, when you receive aid there is no question about who is lower. Now if you have evidence that Canadian corporations are being shady then present that evidence but your criticisms seem very generic.

  12. Well, we shall agree to disagree on the “facts” Geoffrey. And if you think Tokyo Sexwale’s significant ownership of the media sector in Southern Africa is a signal that we are moving in the right direction, then I would disagree again. You are no doubt aware of his “significant” interests in the mining sector and the dubious reputation these have earned him across the continent. The black entrepreneurial elite in South Africa are, on the whole, a disappointing bunch, particularly for the struggling majority whom they patronize as “our people” or brand as “counter-revolutionaries” depending on which hat they are wearing. Not so sure I’d like to promote SABC as the beacon of broadcast media…. think CNN and Fox News as the exporters of Brand America and how each has so successfully undermined or obliterated regional and local news reporting about major events in North America (Hurricane Katrina 911 and presidential elections as excellent examples) and around the world (anything about Osama Bin Laden, Gitmo, Sadaam, Iraq, Israel, Iran, and on and on and on). SABC television is headed in the same direction. Homogenized media…. remember the jingle….Simunye… We are ONE? No we are not. That’s why we are here, writing on sites like these and working for media that does not balance a budget primarily in the interests of major shareholders.

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