Addressing owners of slaves on `banks of James River in the colony of Virginia on December 25 1712, British slave owner Willam Lynch said: “I use fear, distrust and envy for control. I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than trust and envy stronger than adulation, respect or admiration.
“The black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on and will become self-refuelling and self-generating for hundreds of years, maybe thousands….You must also have your white servants and overseers distrust all Blacks. It is necessary that your slaves trust and depend on us.”
It is over 300 years since Lynch delivered the lecture on how to handle slaves, but this indoctrination, mistrust and misconception that black bodies are to be pitied continues to reverberate across the continent.
Here are some factors that make Africa to be perceived as backward and proposed solutions based on development communication and public relations perspectives.
Africa’s abject poverty, drought and its under-development has largely been self-inflicted–fueled by petty and violent political conflicts. All these have exemplified Africa’s dilemma.
Listening to the narrative across the continent, one gets the impression that Africa continues to experience the legacy of colonialism and is failing to breathe ! It appears the continent is continuously in need of a ‘life support machine’.
There appears to be an invisible knee that is continually kneeling on Africa’s neck, choking its efforts to move forward.
Judging from the muted conversations across the spectrum one would conclude that the situation is perhaps exacerbated by alleged external forces sowing seeds of mistrust, disunity and envy among African nations, especially where that their interests are under threat.
Some African nations have failed to reach a consensus even on matters of common interest.
Take, for example, the protracted Egypt-Ethiopia row over the construction of the Grand Renaissance Dam on River Nile. Egypt fear the project will allow Ethiopia to control the flow of Africa’s longest river.
Apparently, the Western media depicts Africa as a continent inherently backward and dysfunctional.
The news, pictures and sound bites coming out of Africa tell it all.
For instance the reportage on the coronavirus pandemic in Africa oftentimes undermines African governments’ efforts to combat the pandemic.
Instead, Africans are depicted as thinking in the same way and that they would suffer the same fate in the wake of the pandemic.
Even if it is a positive story, there is usually a caveat to the global audience about conflicts and how poor Africa is.
All this is probably part of deliberate narratives used to undermine Africa’s success stories to deepen the psychology of Africa as a failed continent!
It is imperative that Africa should take control of its narrative to fend off this ‘Lynch mentality’ which has negatively affected the continent’s confidence building process.
The continent has so many untold success stories which could be brought to the fore by harnessing the power of story-telling.
For instance, recently Malawi held peaceful and credible fresh presidential election without international observers, a clear manifestation that Africans are capable of managing their internal affairs with minimal external interventions.
These are stories that should be celebrated across the continent and beyond.
PR practitioners should also be at the heart of all this, using their unique skills to advance such agenda. Africa needs a balanced narrative to the international audience.
African governments should invest more in marketing communication and PR.
African leaders being instrumental in this endeavour should master the art of communicating effectively.
Gone are the days when African leaders should portray themselves as being preoccupied with resolving issues of hunger, diseases and internal conflicts!