By Natasha Mariam
Africa is one of the most beautiful continents in the world with rich cultures, good weather, food, people and good natural sceneries.
With all these one would expect us to be one of the most developed continents in the world but due to lack of love and patriotism for our motherland Africa, we have continued to be one of the poorest continents in the world. I am specifically disappointed by the way some Africans especially those that have a chance to market the good things about our continent are instead demoting it.
Do we just don’t love our countries? One may ask, for example certain individuals when given a chance to speak to media both local and international media instead of saying the beautiful things about their countries they say things that paint a bad picture of their countries. I believe we should learn to say positive things about our countries, we should be proud of our heritage despite the few challenges we have as a continent. Uganda hired international public relations firms to assist in the promotion of tourism which is a good thing; however it needs to be supported by individuals from Uganda that have physically experienced all the good things in Uganda and therefore are in a better position to market it.
In Uganda especially the opposition and even some media houses have a tendency of looking out for the bad things about an issue because they think it helps them sell their ideas forgetting that it is equally bad for them. There may be freedom of speech in Uganda where by people are free to say whatever they want however, they have continued to take it for granted and instead of using it positively to sell our country, they have continued to say things that demote the country. For example the recent Kasese killings, the opposition and media exaggerated the entire situation blaming the government for killing civilians yet it was doing the right thing, the international community was alarmed which I believe partly affected Uganda’s tourism given the fact that Kasese is a major tourism destination and this affected our revenues which hinders development.
Media is one of the major groups of people who should be doing the marketing but again it has done more harm than good because instead of telling the story to the rest of the world as it is, media houses on this African continent are again getting content from foreign media houses like the Associated Press, Agency France Presse (AFP), BBC and many others whose value and mission we don’t know. Some of the African news have often been decided in far-off Western capitals – London, Paris, New York – and written by dashing foreign correspondents that do not understand the local complexities and base their narrative on misleading generalizations. Sometimes the reports are wrong or distorted and far away from the situation on the ground.
One important thing we should know is that the countries that are good at nation branding are the ones that have developed a very clear self-concept of their culture and have greatly developed and similarly all responsible governments, on behalf of their people, institutions, and companies, need to discover what the world’s perception of their country is” and develop a brand management strategy which I think countries like Uganda have done through their re-branding campaign but this cannot be successful if some other people are always showcasing the bad public relations in the media and wherever they go because of political differences.
Leaving that aside, I applaud countries like Rwanda which have continued to thrive due to the love its people have for their country. Rwanda is one of the few countries in Africa where its citizens are accountable for whatever they say against their country. Am not saying people should not come out to say the wrongs with their governments but they should be said exactly as they are and not exaggerated as this gives a wrong perception for the country.
I remember one of the great American journalists who said that “Truth is the best Propaganda and lies are the worst”. So, whoever lies in the guise of benefiting or gaining readership, listenership or viewership is doing injustice to our good continent Africa. Questions have been running through my mind and have been asking myself about what can be done to market our countries world over but this is kind of rhetorical because all Africans have the answer.
African governments should invest in patriotism lessons at all levels of education for their countries as this will educate people about their history and will also give them direction about the future, it will also deepen love and commitment to their countries, this is so because certain people do not know the benefits and challenges of being patriotic therefore if governments can invest in patriotism programs, certain problems will be controlled. People have tendencies of relating patriotism to ruling parties which is wrong because patriotism is non-partisan but rather looks at the good of the country as a whole.
Africans should be more optimistic than pessimistic about the different situations they are going through keeping in mind that some of them are part of the development process for example they should assist their governments build strong institutions that will make it hard for vices like corruption to flourish.
Finally, the Western media, opposition political parties and bad social media users who peddle lies cannot afford to ignore the progress that Africa is making without risking their relevance. Yes, Africa has problems, but the continent is on the move and as Africans we should tell our story to the whole world as it is.