One Direction came to Ghana last week on a tour for Comic Relief. After their visit, band member Niall Horan tweeted “I’ve seen the slums right in front of me! This is no joke! They really need your help! Poverty is real!”
A number of Ghanaian celebrities criticised the band’s tweets, including actress Ama K Abrebrese, who wrote: “Your tweet about the slums and poverty of Accra, Ghana was very touching. However, next time, also tweet about the luxury hotel and beauty of the country you enjoyed… There is more to Ghana, so much more.”
Following their visit, E! Entertainment’s site eonline.com wrote “The handsome boy-banders visited the impoverished village of Accra…” The ‘impoverished village of Accra’ is the capital of Ghana, a city with over 2 million residents, several malls and an international airport.
This story is just one example of the way in which the media and even charity appeals can actually do harm in terms of public perception. In a recent Oxfam poll, more than half of people immediately mentioned hunger, famine or poverty when speaking about Africa. Indeed, Oxfam believe that the negative view of Africa in the UK is actually harming efforts to raise food aid for the continent, because people turn away from suffering when they believe that it’s so bad that they are unable to make a difference.
So how can we counteract this? Well, here are a few ideas:
- Show a balanced viewpoint – it’s only fair.
- Be aware of what you are comparing it to – for me, that’s the UK. And yes, there are things about the UK that I prefer to Ghana (mainly, the ease with which you can buy chocolate). But there are also many reasons why it is nicer to live here (the weather, for example. And the beef kebabs on every corner).
- Be specific – Africa is not a country. You wouldn’t make a sweeping statement about the citizens of Europe, so why do it in Africa, with its 47 countries? It’s difficult to even generalize about Ghana, where there are over 70 languages spoken, and traditions and even the climate changes drastically if you travel from the north to the south.
We hope that our little blog will show you a balanced view of Tamale – of the good, the bad and the downright funny. And that you will remember while you are reading our views and opinions that they are just that – subjective – and that you will keep in mind that our tales and experiences are being formed in a tiny corner of this vast and extraordinary continent.
PS Honestly, what would you think of Norway if the only images you had seen of the country were the ones in this spoof charity single from Radi-aid?