Media Misrepresents Sierra Leone
Governmental corruption, poverty and civil war have been the headlines claiming Sierra Leone’s existence for the past several decades. Whether violence in the streets or questionable policies behind closed doors, the country has not been well displayed or talked about in the media.

Phrases such as “grotesque human rights violations” fill newsfeeds across the globe, giving the international audience a limited look into the country, its people and current development as a nation. The media misrepresents Sierra Leone in numerous ways, but the inevitable takeaway is clear: Sierra Leone is a country with severe issues.

How the Media Misrepresents Sierra Leone

While it is true that Sierra Leone suffers from human rights violations, poverty, underdevelopment and even governmental corruption, these headlines do not tell the whole story. Yes, Sierra Leone has struggled and continues to face obstacles; however, positive development is visible in many regards. As Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice President for Africa Region explains, “headcount poverty has been reduced from 66 percent in 2003 to about 52 percent” in 2014. Though poverty still affects about half the nation, a downward trend since the end of the civil war marks great potential overall.

Even the current status of Sierra Leone — a nation undergoing a peacekeeping mission headed by the United Nations (U.N. — is reason for optimism. A long and destructive civil war no longer affects the nation as it once did, and in its absence, progress is being made. Under the U.N.’s watch, Sierra Leone has been able to increase its financial return in the diamond industry and use the money for positive economic growth in a time of peace rather than weapon amassing during civil war.

Within this era of peace-building — which began in 1999 — more than 75,000 ex-fighters were disarmed, which included about 7000 child soldiers. This not only allowed for community rehabilitation, but it also ushered in a new time of democratic decision-making. Even more impressive than this is that the U.N. was able to remove itself from the country and end its peacekeeping mandate in 2005, only six years after the program’s initiation. Since then, the country has been able to remain relatively peaceful, though government issues and public tension still persist.

Human Rights and Education

While violence and civil war are vivid memories of a recent past, Sierra Leone has devoted much energy to emphasizing the discussion around human rights. The creation of the Special Court for Sierra Leone, a judicial body dealing with the prosecution of human rights violations, signifies a concrete shift towards assessing the damages of the past.

This court not only seeks to alleviate lasting injustice, but also hopes to establish a precedent for the nation’s future and its dealings with human rights. While the media continues to misrepresent Sierra Leone, tangible advancement can be seen when one takes a more in depth look.

Education in Sierra Leone has also been a point of concern. As Human Rights Watch reported in 2018, pregnant girls are widely barred from schools due to motherhood. While there is no doubt that issues in female education exist throughout the country, there are still examples in this area of concern where the media misrepresents Sierra Leone.

Female education, while in need of alteration, has made substantial progress in recent years. Not only was Sierra Leone able to redesign the “Education Sector Plan” in 2007, but it has also witnessed the creation of an annuel “Girls Education Week” and organizations that work on behalf of female education, such as Girls Child Network. These recent developments have given girls and women alike throughout Sierra Leone places where they can receive quality information and education, the resources and tools to pursue such opportunities and the atmosphere where such a mission is understood and valued.

A New Era

While it should be understood that the country continues to face issues nationwide, it is important to realize how the media misrepresents Sierra Leone and its current development. To say there is no progress being made is simply incorrect. Positive change is underway and shows signs of success at all levels.

Though this development may be slow, there is hope in eventually resolving the issues of the past and present. While Sierra Leone is still suffering, an era of peace and prosperity is not out of the question.

– Ryan Montbleau
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Liberia
For many years, the media has portrayed Liberia as a country in perpetual turmoil, referencing events like the civil war and Ebola outbreaks. Although these events have undoubtedly created obstacles for the Liberian government and its citizens, the country has also had notable accomplishments, like the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first black female head of state in the world. The international media omits Liberia’s progress, and that omission is how the media misrepresents Liberia.

Liberia’s Politics and Economy Improve After Civil Wars

More than a decade of political strife from civil war has left more than 250,000 dead and about half of the country’s three million people displaced. The severity of war and widespread poverty in Liberia has received substantial media attention. Fifteen years later, the media still manages to make war the focus rather than the country’s positive economic efforts.

The presidential elections in 2017 attracted some media attention when Joseph Duo, who fought rebels during the second civil war, ran for president. Articles covered the war, the poor economy and political instability yet again instead of positive events. The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia described the 1.5 million Liberians who voted in the election as inspirations for democracy, resulting in the victory of current president George Weah.

The economy has grown since the wars, despite media representation of it being stagnant. Liberia has emphasized the importance of economic growth, aided by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2013, 10 years after the end of the war, GDP growth reached 8.9 percent with natural resources like rubber, palm oil, gold and iron ore greatly contributing to the country’s industry.

Despite the setback of the Ebola outbreak, these sectors have begun to help augment GDP growth in Liberia. In 2017, Liberia experienced 2.5 percent growth, and rates are projected to reach 3.9 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019.

The role of foreign direct investment also indicates economic growth as well as improvements in the country’s stability as foreign companies begin to work in Liberia. Large multinational companies like China’s UnionPay, India’s ArcelorMittal and Russia’s Putu Mining are taking advantage of the new market opportunities in Liberia and have added more than $13 billion to the Liberian economy. These companies’ investments have contributed to the growth and development of the country. The lack of attention given to this growth, however, is how the media misrepresents Liberia.

The Media Misrepresents Liberia by Ignoring Its Progress After Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola virus outbreak, which began in December 2013, affected Liberia the most, and by the time it was eradicated from the country in June 2016, a total of 4,810 people had died. The media heavily covered the progression of the outbreak in West Africa; however, coverage halted after the spread slowed. This lack of discussion is another way the media misrepresents Liberia and its growth. Since the outbreak, Liberia’s healthcare services have improved with the help of the World Bank and other developmental organizations.

Dr. Asinya Magnus, a Liberian doctor who worked in affected hospitals outside the capital of Monrovia, told the World Bank that “Ebola revolutionized health services…with a transition from a closed to an open healthcare system.” Better healthcare systems, more medical supplies and efficient training of medical officials in the country have helped Liberia’s health sector in the aftermath of tragedy.

Liberia still struggles with numerous complicated economic and social issues. These issues, however, remain the overwhelming majority of what is represented in the media. As a small, West African country, the Western media only offers rare glimpses of Liberia to the outside world, and these perpetual negative discussions alter the overall perception of the country and its people. Despite these issues, the country continues to recover and catalyze positive growth and change, hoping that it will eventually receive proper, and positive, representation in the media.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

Senegal
When reporting on countries like Senegal, major media outlets often reinforce negative stereotypes of the entire continent. This creates a problem in how the media misrepresents Senegal. Our rare interactions with stories from Africa tend to paint the entire continent with a single, wide brush as a cohesive unit rather than distinct countries.

Changing Views

Marisa Peters, a college student who recently traveled to Senegal, told The Borgen Project in an interview that how the media misrepresents Senegal can cause others to dismiss the country and look down on it as well. For many of us, our only exposure to Senegal is through this incomplete media coverage and do-good campaigns. This lack of balance and context leads to a one-sided perspective. Victims of poverty, hunger and disease stare back at us from haunting images and videos on our screens; big eyes and tiny limbs seem to plead for pity, desperate for help. We hear time and again about the violence, corruption and backwards-thinking that plagues the continent.

Perception vs Reality

All of these aspects certainly exist in African countries, many even in Senegal, but this is only one side of the story. There are so many positive aspects of Senegal that people rarely ever see. By failing to report the many distinct and positive aspects of Senegal, the media perpetuates the myth that it is just another “helpless African country”.

Many perceive Senegal as a nation of famine and starvation when, in reality, most Senegalese have plenty to eat. This speaks to how the media misrepresents Senegal as a poor and powerless country.

Poverty, while still a problem, is not an inevitable one in Senegal. They have actually made significant strides in the last decade toward reducing poverty rates. The government has been heavily investing in infrastructure, energy and agriculture which has led to strong economic growth – consistently between six and seven percent in the last several years. This solid fiscal foundation has helped turn Senegal into one of the economic hubs of Western Africa.

A ‘New’ Glimpse at Senegal

This growth has caused the poverty rate to fall by four to seven percent since 2011. In addition, Senegal has one of the largest safety net programs in Africa. However, this progress is rarely a part of the way Senegal is portrayed. Another example of Senegal’s underrepresented progress are the improvements in child health – a result of reducing malaria and malnutrition.

Because of various campaigns by organizations and outside governments, Senegal is misrepresented as a nation that struggles with AIDS. However, the Senegalese were actually able to quickly respond to the disease, and currently have a prevalence rate below 1 percent – a model of success for the continent.

Properly understanding the progress that Senegal has made — largely through government initiatives and investments — can also help dispel notions of corruption and instability that often accompany coverage of Senegal. In fact, Senegal has one of the most stable and democratic political institutions in Africa. Its history of civilian leaders and having only three major political transitions – all of which were peaceful – contradicts how the media misrepresents Senegal.

Debunking Stereotypes

Another media focus point is Senegal’s perceived issue of violence. Petty crime can be a problem in Senegal, but the machine-gun-carrying warlords that enamor Hollywood are nowhere to be seen. Focusing on primitive aspects of Senegal also shows how the media misrepresents Senegal; Westerners often perceive of the Senegalese as backwards. They are stereotyped as practitioners of voodoo and witchcraft, despite Islam being the main religion.

Like many African nations, Senegal is also seen as being technologically limited; in reality, the technology gap in Senegal is being reduced by their innovative youth.

Another one of the numerous ways the media misrepresents Senegal is by omitting many unique aspects of Senegalese life and culture. The capital, Dakar, is a fascinating city that beautifully blends new trends and old traditions. Senegal is home to a vibrant music scene, rich history, delicious cuisine, bustling markets and striking landscapes.

Senegalese Warmth and Hospitality

The Senegalese themselves, contrary to what can be found in most news outlets, are known for their friendliness and hospitality. The warmth of their culture reflects that of the temperate weather — this hospitality is known locally as “Teranga.” Peters said that it encompasses the incredibly kind and welcoming nature of the many Senegalese she met. She particularly remembers their willingness to invest time and energy into one another; in Senegal, “time is people.”

Of course, it is necessary for the media and academics to continue to report on the poverty and problems that African countries such as Senegal face. This is the only way outsiders can make informed decisions and stay up to date. However, this coverage needs to be balanced, and context must be provided or else myths and stereotypes will continue to be perpetuated.

Western media has already made significant improvements in covering more positive aspects of Senegal as well as considering the progress they have made, but as always, more can be done.

– Liesl Hostetter
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Azerbaijan
May 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR). With its independence in 1918, the country was poised for great progress, which included female suffrage and its democratic government.

The ADR was short-lived, however. In 1920 Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union and would not regain independence until the Soviet Union’s fall. Since its independence, Azerbaijan has faced an often difficult history, struggling with human rights and war with neighboring Armenia.

Human Rights

While Azerbaijan may not frequently be the focus of attention in the media, often the media misrepresents Azerbaijan by strictly focusing on its human rights record. In addition to discrimination of the Talysh and Armenian ethnic minorities, Azerbaijan has been known for suppressing the media and persecuting journalists and bloggers.

Yet, this depiction of Azerbaijan as a country with a poor track record for allowing free speech and media access is not unwarranted. With news outlets, including The Guardian as well as human rights advocacy groups, are barred from entering the country, the current Azerbaijani regime is made ripe for international criticism. The groups and people targeted—namely journalists and human rights activists—are the very people who report the country’s reputation.

Thus, beneath the excitement of the 100th anniversary, people, including Rep. Chris Smith, have been keen to remind the world of Azerbaijan’s tricky situation. In an article for The Hill, Smith called the Azerbaijani president, Ilham Aliyev, a “dictator” and argues that its citizens are not members of a free society. Smith specifically points to Aliyev’s lengthy tenure as president, from 2003 to 2025, and cited concerns with the lack of power in Azerbaijan’s other governmental institutions.

Poverty in a Wealthy Nation

Serving to reinforce the already abundant human rights issues and an overly powerful president, the country, while wealthy from its oil reserves, is mired by issues with corruption and poverty. Thus, Azerbaijan occupies the public’s consciousness in almost contradictory extremes – it’s a country of wealth, yet one with the majority of its population living in poverty.

The depiction of Azerbaijan as a hub of human rights violations, and as a place oscillating between extreme poverty and excess, does, perhaps, ignore the movement to the future. This is how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan—it focuses on Azerbaijan’s economic and political issues, without addressing the hope and shifting dynamics within the country.

The Future

The rhetoric of Azerbaijan surrounding the 100th anniversary is decidedly not pessimistic. Looking backward one century provides the chance to look forward as well as to move in the direction of that early progress that defined the country in 1918. A statement from the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs expresses an intent and desire to bring “into the reality the aspirations and ideals” of the ADR.

With trade between Azerbaijan and other European markets increasing over the last few years, the progressive aims expressed on the 100th anniversary may soon be on the horizon and may, one day, be a reality. And, with the European Union and the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP’s) continued support of education, through the EU’s “Modernising Vocational Education and Training (VET) Centres in Azerbaijan” plan, an emphasis is placed on transitioning Azerbaijan into a knowledge-based economy, thus pushing the country further into the future.

Of course one must not forget—surrounding the 100th anniversary of the ADR—writers, like the aforementioned Rep. Smith, have noted that expressing the optimism and excitement surrounding the country is, itself, how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan. A full view of the country, therefore, takes into account both the hope for the future as well as the current skepticism.

It might be the case that Azerbaijan actually isn’t misrepresented in the media, at least not now. The country does have human rights violations, its citizens do suffer from poverty and questions surrounding the efficacy of the government should be raised. Yet, with the shifting conditions in the country, this representation may be how the media misrepresents Azerbaijan in the future.

-William Wilcox
Photo: Flickr

Media Misrepresents IndonesiaWestern media often sensationalizes stereotypes of Asian countries including one of the most diverse and beautiful scenic spots in the world, Indonesia. There is a tendency to depict it as a poor, uneducated country with Islamic extremists and rising cases of drug trafficking: that’s how the media misrepresents Indonesia. What the media does not highlight is the economic growth the country has made and consistent efforts by the government to ensure that the rest of the world sees the country differently from what the media depicts it to be.

Media Misrepresents Indonesia and its People

The media misrepresents Indonesia by showing poor children on the streets with no shelter and no food. Although 10.2 percent of Indonesia’s population lives in poverty, it is a generalization to call it a poor nation. It is worth noting that Indonesia has the highest middle class in Southeast Asia and “the average disposable income is expected to increase 3-5 percent annually.” The Indonesian government has made it a goal to focus on the issue so that the country can achieve less than 10 percent poverty rate.

Furthermore, the media highlights the presence of only uneducated people who do not have access to quality education. The country’s government has proved its commitment to educating its people, specifically in the last few years, spending significantly on education. The number of high school students has doubled in the last five years. In fact, all Indonesian kids are required to have at least nine years of compulsory education, and therefore more students are going to university.

Highlighting Terrorism in Indonesia

The media often portrays Indonesia as a conservative, traditional Islamic country. While we only see stories of ISIS members and the actions of extremists, 87 percent of Indonesia’s population is Muslim and the majority of them wants the rest of the world to know that the actions of a small percentage of extremists do not represent all Indonesian Muslims. In fact, most people are not aware that, by law, Indonesia is a secular state. In other words, Indonesia is not even an Islamic country: it just holds the largest amount of Muslims in the world.

Stereotyping Indonesia

Western media also neglects the progress Indonesia’s people are making to combat stereotypes. For example, in 2014, a group of Muslim girls formed a heavy metal band called Voice of Baceprot to show the world that they can wear the hijab (Islamic headscarf) while expressing their individuality. Firdda Kurnia, a member of the band adds, “I think gender equality should be supported because I feel I am still exploring my creativity, while at the same time, not diminishing my obligations as a Muslim woman.”

There is a clear disconnect between Indonesia and the western media. When the media covers the country, there is an obsession with feeding stereotypes. News reports fail to mention the efforts of the government in raising the standard of living and promoting their culture or that it is a country whose national motto is “Unity in Diversity.”

– Emma Martin
Photo: Flickr

media misrepresents Burkina Faso
Oftentimes, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, a landlocked country in western Africa. Major journalist outlets like the New York Times or the Guardian usually only take note of terrorist or militia attacks in the country or diplomatic exchanges like when Burkina Faso most recently tied itself to China after renouncing connections to Taiwan.

How the Media Misrepresents Burkina Faso

The New York Times’ website portrays how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, with articles that carry headlines like “Militants Carry Out Deadly Attacks in Burkina Faso” or “Gunmen Kill 18 at Restaurant in Burkina Faso.” This is not to say that the Times only report these negative events, as it also has an article titled “U.S. Pledges $60 Million for Antiterrorism Force in Africa” with Burkina Faso being cited as one of the beneficiaries.

In the past year, the Times published three articles about violence, two neutral-leaning articles about diplomacy with China and Taiwan and only 1 positive article, which was about France returning artifacts to the country. Overall, the media misrepresents Burkina Faso through its tendency to post negative articles.

The Death Penalty

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is by not covering the improvements the country has made, especially about humanitarian issues. As of June 1, 2018, Burkina Faso outlawed the death penalty with Justice Minister Rene Bagoro stating that the passing of the new law allows for “more credible, equitable, accessible and effective justice in the application of criminal law.”

While the country’s last known execution was in 1988, Burkina Faso hasn’t used the death penalty for 30 years. However, the passing of the law strengthens the country’s humanitarian resolve. This new parliamentary decision has been applauded by groups ranging from Amnesty International to the Catholic Church, which demonstrates that human rights movements are progressing in the country.

Clean Water Access

Another way the media misrepresents Burkina Faso is with the country’s access to clean water. In 2015, UNICEF reported 76 percent of the rural population and 97 percent of the urban population had access to clean drinking water, meeting or exceeding the country’s water-related millennium goals. Compared to neighboring country Ghana’s 66 percent rural access and 88 percent urban access, Burkina Faso is a leader in the region.

Access to clean water is one of the biggest problems in Saharan and Sub-Saharan Africa, where North African countries lead the charge with 92 percent safe water coverage in 2014 as reported by the U.N. However, 40 percent of the 783 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa go without clean drinking water. This is a major problem for Africa, but one Burkina Faso has been ahead of the curve on.

This improvement can be heavily attributed to the National Office for Water and Sanitation (ONEA), which is a state-run utility company that began operating in the 1990s. According to the World Bank, it is a “capable state company with the ability to absorb external funding effectively.” The World Bank also says Burkina Faso is a model country in Francophone West Africa in regards to its water capabilities.

Despite how the media misrepresents Burkina Faso, there have been improvements in the small West African country, as shown in humanitarian and clean water improvements. While there is a still a long way to go for Burkina Faso in regards to humanitarian efforts and overall infrastructure, it is still important to acknowledge the progress that has already been made.

– Dylan Redman
Photo: Flickr

how the media misrepresents Ghana
The media today is prone to reporting stereotypes about developing countries. This kind of coverage far outnumbers fact-based coverage, making it difficult to filter out false information. Yet the public must rely on the media to provide non-domestic news. Therefore, should the media be tainted with misinformation, the public outlook will also be tainted, and one of the most misrepresented places in the world is Africa’s west coast.

News Reports Do Not Match Personal Experiences

Adrian Heath, a rising senior at Colgate University, recently studied abroad in Ghana during his junior year. In his descriptions of Ghana, it was clear how his perceptions had changed over time. He spoke to The Borgen Project about his mindset before departure: “I had all of the typical stereotypes in my head like poverty and AIDS. I expected to see a lot of beggars.” Heath’s head had been filled with images and stories from how the media misrepresents Ghana and other African nations.

His perception changed upon his arrival country-side. Almost immediately, he realized how skewed his perception had been. “We went out in the city and some parts were so beautiful it really surprised me… It could have been any American city.” His preconceived notions were whisked away with the beauty of Ghanaian life.

He said that there are a lot of “great spots for tourism” in Ghana, a landscape littered with beautiful beaches and resort locations. Accra is a coastal city, perfectly situated to host tourists who are interested in experiencing Ghanaian culture. The irony is that people avoid visiting due to the negative portrayal of Africa, missing out on a chance to have a positive experience in Ghana.

Ghanaians React to How the Media Misrepresents Ghana

Ghanaians are aggrieved by how the media misrepresents Ghana. Ismail Akwei, a journalist for Africa News, analyzed Ghanaian reactions to an article published by CNN. In the article, Ghanaians are portrayed as “struggl[ing] to obtain food and day-to-day services. Rolling blackouts are common and citizens often stand in long line [sic] to obtain products.”

The people of Ghana quickly turned to Twitter to express their disgust at the negligent reporting, utilizing the hashtag #CNNGetItRight. One user, Kafui Dey, tweeted: “Ghanaians are not struggling to obtain food. We are not standing in long lines to obtain products. I know. I live here.” Another Ghanaian, Nana Ama Agyemang, tweeted: “Such lazy coverage of a fantastic story by @CNN. No nuance, just the usual template ‘Africans are suffering’.”

Ghanaians have also been expressing their disdain for their elected officials, who do nothing to reverse how the media misrepresents Ghana. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo was elected on a platform of change. In an open letter to the president that was published by Ghana News, Dr. Elvis Asiedu Afram pleaded for the president to enact some of the change he had promised, writing, “Mr. President, nine months after your historic assumption of office, it has become increasingly tedious to defend the change we proudly supported and campaigned for…. What was the change message about if things were to remain the same?”

Change Comes from Within Ghana

The peoples’ cries were heard when the president publicly endorsed a plan to increase Ghana’s domestic commerce, a move that would help gain independence from foreign aid and empower Ghana as a nation. An article on Ghana’s official presidency website quoted the president as saying, “Government is empowering the private sector to create jobs and wealth by working closely with industry and academia to equip young professionals with the skills required to operate competitively in the sector.”

While speaking with The Borgen Project, Heath mirrored the views of President Akufo-Addo, that Ghana needs to establish a means of domestically manufactured income in order to take care of its own and step out from beneath the shadow of colonialism. Heath was enthusiastic in his hope that this would eventually become a reality. His many interactions with emphatic Ghanaians whose love for their way of life give him hope for the future. “[As a foreigner] everyone you meet asks if you liked their country. They want you to appreciate their culture. They want you to see the beauty as they do.” There is much to appreciate about Ghana if the media chooses to shine a light on it.

– Zach Farrin
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents the Democratic Republic of CongoLocated in Central Africa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the second largest country on the continent and rich in natural resources. While the DRC is often associated with the devastating civil war that ravaged the country from 1994-2003, it possesses the potential for immense economic growth.

In recent years, the central African nation has been highlighted in the media through the lens of the eastern part of the country ravaged by war. Thus, the world has become increasingly desensitized to the loss of Congolese lives. In spite of the nation’s ongoing struggle to recover from the devastating effects of the civil war, what may often be overlooked is how the media misrepresents the DRC.

Rising from the Ashes

The DRC is the scene of one of the greatest man-made disasters of our lifetime. Two successive wars have killed more than five million people since 1996. While this might suggest an unlikely recovery, the DRC has the potential to be a regional economic giant. From large mineral deposits of industrial diamonds, copper, and cobalt to large swaths of protected forest reserves along with significant hydroelectric potential, the DRC has the raw resources necessary for a burgeoning economy.

How the Media Misrepresents the Democratic Republic of the Congo

However, the reduction of the DRC to images of poverty, disease, and helplessness in the face of political and military strife is how the media misrepresents the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the media becomes saturated with these themes, people living in the United States and other parts of the world cannot help but view the DRC in perpetual decline.

Unfortunately, images of the country’s transformation in its capital, Kinshasa, and across other major cities are not as prevalent. The bustling city centers, towering cranes, well-developed roads and  improved infrastructure are usually overlooked in the news articles, pictures, and videos presented by Western media. However, the rehabilitation and modernization of N’Djili International Airport, the addition of 500 buses to the urban public transportation system and initiatives to expand rail transport to connect the two major cities of Kinshasa and Kisangani all point to serious progress.

Economic Potential

However, it is imperative that the DRC is not written off as a developmental failure that has succumbed to political and economic conflict. The DRC has seen impressive gains in light of a devastating war. While still more can be done as two-thirds of the population live on less than $1.25 per day, the poverty rate fell by 7 percent between 2005 and 2012, child mortality has fallen by 49 percent in the last 27 years, and the primary school completion rate has increased from 29 percent in 2002 to 70 percent in 2014.

Moreover, the DRC has incredible economic potential. Its sizable and diverse supply of natural resources is estimated to be worth more than $24 trillion. It possesses over 50 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves, 80 percent of the global coltan supply, and produces copper, gold, tin, tungsten and diamonds. These minerals are of particular importance in the technological sector. Cobalt is essential for the production of computer chips and lithium-ion batteries, and coltan is used in cellphones.

Public and Private Investment

An increase in public and private investments is integral to preserving the DRC’s economic growth. Mining has attracted foreign investors from the US, South Africa, India and Turkey, which has afforded the DRC the capital to expand its banking, digital commerce, and mobile services sectors. The annual average foreign direct investment in the DRC is about $2.07 billion, according to World Investment Report 2016 published by the UN Conference on Trade and Development.

Foreign investments and continued planning can ensure sustained future economic growth, and the expansion of the aforementioned industries can provide a reliable market for export goods in those sectors. GDP growth alone (8.5 percent in 2013 and 9.5 percent in 2014) demonstrates the significant impact foreign investments have had.

As the DRC continues to rise above its struggles with political turmoil and military conflict, a recovering economy and infrastructure are on the rise for this the Central African nation. Despite how the media misrepresents the Democratic Republic of the Congo, its wealth of natural resources has drawn foreign investments and put the DRC in a promising position in the international economic landscape.

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a beautifully scenic country filled with small towns, cultural experiences and long-standing traditions. However, it is also a country with a history of genocide, poverty and weak government and oftentimes, the media zeros in the most on the latter aspects. The following is a discussion on how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Facts

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a relatively high crime rate due to petty thefts, violent crimes and even organized crime — a normalized idea in the country. Since the Bosnian War, the country experienced divisiveness and a near 20 percent of Bosnians live in poverty. The destruction of homes, buildings and infrastructure from the Bosnian War served as a large contributor to these societal occurrences. For context, these numbers compare to a United States poverty rate of 12.7 percent in 2016.

A once thriving country, how much has this really changed? What is Bosnia and Herzegovina like beneath the shadow of its most recent war? Below are a few key ways of how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Crime, Community and Division

Like all countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience crime; however, despite media attention to the issue, the overall crime rate in Bosnia and Herzegovina has dropped by over nine percent from 2016 to 2017.

Currently, Bosnia and Herzegovina experience residual ethnic tensions leftover from the Bosnian War. This has, at times, filled the country with a great amount of division, especially regarding the current elections which brought ethnic divisions to the surface. To add fuel to this fire, refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan have started entering Bosnia and Herzegovina in droves. This has rocked the balance of the country’s seemingly low ethnic tolerance.

However, despite these facts and how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, the country prides itself on its religious and ethnic diversity. This is most apparent when speaking with everyday citizens, as opposed to conversing with extremists or minority members.

In an interview with a native to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sanela Hotic, whose family was not only displaced by the Bosnian war but experienced the loss of both her father and brother, expresses memories of her hometown of Bratunac. She recalls it being, “very peaceful and quiet,” saying, “everyone got along and were unified by a sense of community; all parents were everyone’s parents, all kids, everyone’s kids. We were all one.”

She goes on to say that religion did not play a factor in determining whether people got along. In her words, “they just did.” The sense of community spread further than the surface, Sanela explains, citing memories of celebrating both Eid, an Islamic holiday signifying the end the fasting period of Ramadan as well as Christmas with her Christian neighbors.

Government Structure

Since the Bosnian War, Bosnia and Herzegovina has dedicated attention to the restructuring and rebuilding of a functioning government. While this task proved difficult, the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina loyally dedicated themselves to seeing this goal through.

There have been several failed attempts at structuring a new government, and none without criticism from media outlets who often fault the nation for its failed attempts. But despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina for government failures, citizens have not given up on their country and continue to push for better representatives and new laws.

Tradition

Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to the city of Mostar and its long-standing tradition of bridge diving. This annual event has been a method used for males to impress females for centuries. Within the last few years, the diving tradition has turned into a competition that thousands of people gather to watch.

A “cliff diving” competition, sponsored by Red Bull, will host cliff diving competition finals in Mostar. One can only assume this contest is due to the intense challenge provided by the newly rebuilt bridge of 2003. 

Sightseeing

If someone is looking for things to do on a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, an interesting stop might include the Sarajevo Olympic Stadium. In 1984, the country hosted the Winter Olympics in the capital city of Sarajevo, and the Olympic stadium is still around today and is available for tours that include not only the stadium but also the Olympic mountains.

Further in the sightseeing category is a visit to Guber water in Srebrenica which is said to possess healing effects. This fact is likely due to the high iron content of the water which can be helpful for those dealing with iron deficiency or anemia.

Cuisine

Bosnia and Herzegovina is also known for its Ottoman-Empire-influenced cuisine. Some more famous cuisine items in the country include Turkish coffee and chevap, a pita stuffed with sausages. Bosnia and Herzegovina is also well-known for its variety and quality of desserts, one of which includes baklava, which also exists in Greek cuisine.

Despite how the media misrepresents Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is a culturally flourishing nation home to many religions, ethnicities and communities bound together by a sense of unity. In the coming years, Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to rebuild itself while the world watches their continued progress.

– Alexandra Ferrigno
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents South Sudan
South Sudan has spent the last five years locked in brutal civil war. A quick Google search regarding South Sudanese current affairs indicates how the media misrepresents South Sudan. It’s clear that the global news cycle focuses heavily on the darkest moments of this conflict. Al Jazeera’s South Sudanese frontpage is plastered with the following soundbites: “South Sudan: Aid Agencies Struggle to Reach those in Need,” “‘Sick and Hungry’: The Human Cost of South Sudans Civil War,” and “Maternal Death Rates in South Sudan One of World’s Highest.” Similarly, the New York Times starkly reminds its audience that in South Sudan “A Never-Ending Hunger Season Puts Millions in Danger.”

Clearly, the South Sudanese civil war has caused a great deal of suffering. Generally, though, large news agencies provide less airtime to cover the good and instances of perseverance that exist in the face of this struggle. Without paying close scrutiny to such hope-filled details, it’s not difficult to see how the media misrepresents South Sudan. It’s difficult to realize that amongst the seemingly endless stories of pain there are moments of hope. Here are a few examples.

South Sudanese Youth Soccer

In the winter of 2018, the South Sudan Football Association (SSFA) held a youth tournament in Juba, a major South Sudanese city. The event took place over the course of series of days, one of which was national Unity Day — a South Sudanese holiday dedicated to the promotion of togetherness in the country.

Maria Dudi, the minister of sport in South Sudan, had high hopes for the event, saying “The main objective of National Unity Day is to promote the integration of diverse populations through sports of fair play and sportsmanship.” The event was supported by Japanese International Cooperation Agency, a branch of the Japanese government dedicated to developmental assistance in struggling countries.

On May 18, the Facebook page for the SSFA posted regarding intensified efforts to train a new cadre of young referees so that they are capable of operating on the world stage. These efforts, alongside youth tournaments, indicate a renewed hopefulness that South Sudan’s passion for soccer can be used as a vehicle for cooperation and global recognition.

Natural Resources

South Sudan currently faces tremendous economic challenges that are only compounded by the presence of guerrilla warfare throughout the country. Despite this, South Sudan possesses significant potential for economic development due to its abundance of natural resources.

South Sudan houses large oil reserves and vast resource-rich forests. This abundance of resources further highlights how the media misrepresents South Sudan — it’s uncommon for large-scale news agencies to remind their audiences of the economic potential of a nation supposedly destitute and wartorn.

At present, foreign involvement in South Sudan primarily focuses on humanitarian aid rather than investment, as immediate civilian welfare is the highest priority. With the help of the U.N., and the stability provided by eventual peace conferences, South Sudan has the resources to garner the attention of foreign investment, which in turn could slowly bolster its economy.

Promise of Peace Talks

A variety of major players in the African world have stepped in to contribute to South Sudanese peace efforts. Kenyan politician Raila Odinga has offered to mediate and broker peace talks between South Sudan’s rival constituents, with the aid of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Odinga has plans to meet separately with each constituent prior to any official peace conference. South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has been openly receptive to the notion of a peace conference with his rebel rival, Dr. Riek Machar.

Additionally, the U.N. has entered the fray and imposed a June 30th deadline for the talks. Another deadline looms ahead on July 1, which is the African Union Summit slated to be held in Mauritania. While the past few years have housed a number of recent failed South Sudanese peace talks, these recent events hold a renewed sense of positive momentum and hope for the future.

– Ian Greenwood
Photo: Flickr