Consider the immensity of the powers of Africa – of its energy sources, rising generations of youth, biodiversity and landscapes, birthplaces of cultures and religions and philosophies. And now, consider the common narratives on Africa – that it’s impoverished, in conflict, drought- and famine-stricken, a country.
Why is it that the way Africa is portrayed in global media and discourse is so different from the realities of its 54 nations? Why is it that it’s more common to hear about what its peoples need and lack than what they have and can bring to the table? How would it affect the continent if these prevailing narratives changed to ones of abundance and strength, and how would this serve as a transfer of power that could accordingly change the world?
The stories we tell and the lenses through which we look are fundamental for shaping the state of things, which is why this GLF Live took a moment to cast a critical and educated eye in this direction. Here, African media and business icon Moky Makura joined in discussion with acclaimed author Dinaw Mengestu and UNCCD Land Hero Ibrahim Musa to discuss where narratives on Africa stand, how they got here and where they need to go.
Listen back to the conversation as a podcast, or re-watch it on YouTube:
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Moky Makura was born in Nigeria, educated in England and has lived in London, Johannesburg and Lagos. She has been a TV presenter, producer, author, publisher and a successful entrepreneur in her own right. She is currently the Executive Director of Africa No Filter, a donor collaborative focused on shifting the African narrative. Her book Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs with a foreword written by Richard Branson featured on the top 10 best-selling business books in South Africa when it launched. Moky has since compiled and published a number of non-fiction titles under her imprint MME Media.
Dinaw Mengestu is a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Written Arts Program at Bard College in the U.S. He is the author of three novels, all of which were named New York Times Notable Books: All Our Names (Knopf, 2014), How To Read the Air (Riverhead, 2010), and The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears (Riverhead, 2007). A native of Ethiopia who came with his family to the U.S. at the age of 2, Mengestu is also a freelance journalist who has reported about life in Darfur, northern Uganda and eastern Congo. His articles and fiction have appeared in the New York Times, New Yorker, Harper’s, Granta, Jane, and Rolling Stone. He is a 2012 MacArthur Fellow and recipient of a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction, National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Award, Guardian First Book Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize, among other honors. He holds a BA from Georgetown University, and MFA from Columbia University and has served at Bard since 2016
Ibrahim Musa is a graduate of geography and environmental management programs in Nigeria and a Land Hero of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification and Drought (UNCCD). Musa volunteerswith several organizations to plant trees and raise awareness on the effects of desertification and ways to address it. He writes a blog and creates cartoons to convey messages about land restoration.
Anita Moragia (moderator) is a development communication enthusiast who is passionate about contributing to inclusive growth stories, having worked in newsrooms across three continents. Throughout her career, Anita has secured interviews with high-profile stakeholders such as American record executive Dr. Mathew Knowles, former VP and COO of the African Development Bank, Dr. Nkosana Moyo and travel blogger, Jessica Nabongo. In her free time, Anita enjoys poetry and spoken word and has performed at various international events, including Western Canada’s first African Business forum as well as London Business School’s Africa Summit in 2018.
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