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Africa: Europe’s First born child

By Sechaba Molete


Photo by: @aagloe8443 (Pinterest)


It’s June 2019 and former South African deputy president Baleka Mbete, former South African politician Andrew Feinstein, former member of parliament Dr. Makhosi Busisiwe Khoza, and current member of the African National Congress Xolani Xala, have all been invited to The Oxford Union to discuss and debate the state of the South African nation post-Apartheid. This discussion took place in the city of Oxford in The United Kingdom and was distributed for international consumption by the Arab news station Al Jazeera. Mehdi Hasan, the host of the ‘Head to Head’ show, started the show in an intense and confrontational manner. Hasan quickly landed at a question that captures the essence of the media relationship between Western Europe and Africa.


“The World Bank says that South Africa today is the most unequal nation on earth. That’s a pretty embarrassing title for your country to hold, is it not?” Hasan enquired.


Although steeped in truth, it is quite challenging to ignore the reality of the context in which this conversation was held. The conversation was about the current state of South Africa, making it a South African issue. But, it was held in a European country and facilitated by a British national. Ex-South African politicians and political analysts were invited to a European city to discuss the social, economic, and political state of South Africa. This discussion was mediated and conducted by a British national in a historically European institution. There is a paternalistic relationship between Western Europe and Africa, with Europe proclaiming itself as the parent and Africa as the child. One cannot help but notice that African officials seem to have to answer to European political analysts and talk show hosts when issues arise within the respective African countries. It seems as if African political leaders are responsible to keep Europe and the West updated on the progress or lack thereof of the respective countries they govern.


The accentuation of African issues in European media for global viewership is a phenomenon that has been around for a while. However, the concept of African leaders being answerable to journalists, news anchors, and political analysts regarding their leadership failures, the state of their respective countries, and various plans for the future of their respective countries is not only a waste of time but also needs to be revised. The counterargument to this stance could be that the various African leaders place their respective countries in a position to be demeaned by virtue of their various leadership styles, and that democracy and human rights are kept alive in different nations around the world through the accountability that comes with freedom of the press.


However, this same level of accountability is not expected by African media houses or even held by European political figures. For instance, Borris Johnson being flown to the ENCA headquarters in Johannesburg to discuss his infamous “party gate scandal” with JJ Tabane on his show Power to Truth is unheard of and unexpected by South African media houses and the South African public at large. Yet in May, ANC Secretary General Fikile Mbalula and leader of the EFF, Julius Malema were separately interviewed by journalist Stephen Sackur regarding South Africa’s stance and upcoming decision regarding Vladimir Putin’s entry into the country amidst the Russia and Ukraine war.


This unequal and imperialistic relationship between Europe and Africa is beneficial to Europe because the issues faced within the various European countries seem to be minuscule or even non-existent. This is because the issues of African nations are followed and dissected in detail for the world to see. Western European media does not owe Africa good publicity as much as African leaders and political activists do not owe European media exclusive content and progress reports. It does not seem as though the European obsession with Africa will end soon. However, once African leaders begin to revere and make themselves answerable to the people they govern first before any other nation, the long overdue change in the dynamic between the two continents might actually begin to take shape.


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