Welcome to Africa: Lagos warts and all
Let me start by acknowledging the great work that you and the African Business fraternity have been doing. Personally, I am an avid reader and appreciate the major highlights that your publication sets upon Africa. Let me change my focus for a moment on ‘Unwelcome portrayal of Lagos’ (Editorial, African Business, June issue). First, I totally appreciate your views, which to some extent are valid. However, I have some pertinent issues I want to raise.
One, the fundamental underlying point is that Africa has a problem. Whether we like it or not, our motherland is faced with problems left, right and centre. We have slums, we have hunger coupled by food insecurity, ineffective governance structure and we do not encourage or enhance development. We lack the leadership to steer the continent to achieve its full potential.
When faced with a problem, the only way to deal with it is by owning up to the problem. It happens everywhere, it happened to Greece most recently, it happened to Kenya after the 2007 general elections, and it happened to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. This brings me to my second and very important point, when there is a problem, someone has to shout or scream. African media are ever so busy crying about how Western media portrays Africa in a negative light and does not do anything about that.
African media outlets have been shy or even scared to tell the African story. Someone has to tell that story. Unfortunately our stories are not the sweetest; however, I am sure you know the cliché, ‘No news is good news’.
I do appreciate the great works of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, distinguished writers Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Chinua Achebe in battling with Western media depictions of Africa. However, that does not wish away our problems. Western media showing upmarket Lagos doesn’t wish away the slums, Western media showing skyscrapers of Joburg and Nairobi does not reduce the unemployment rate in South Africa and Kenya. It is part and parcel of the reform process, when Africa reforms its governance structures, then we can blame the Western media when it highlights us. When Africa reforms its housing sector, then we can blame the Western media. When roads are being constructed, then we can blame the Western media.
Finally a quick focus on Welcome to Lagos; with all due fairness, it is one of the best documentaries highlighting Africa’s problem. It was a story of determination in an environment of hardship. It was the story of a young man who roams the dumping site looking for that one naira so that he can produce his music. It was a documentary that showed the potential of Nigeria.
In conclusion, Welcome to Lagos was a PR disaster for Nigeria but it was a harsh truth that had to be told.
Matthew O Amere. Milton Keynes, UK