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