The use of social media to tell diverse, authentic stories about Africa is a great opportunity Taking advantage of modern technology’s accessibility, African social media natives are using different micro-blogging platforms to debunk long-held “Afro-pessimistic” notions of Africa as a backward continent plagued by conflict and poverty.
In her 2013 TED Talk, titled ‘A new self-identity for Africans’, journalist, essayist and novelist Panashe Chigumadzi makes the case that stereotypes can be difficult to overcome, even for those who are the victims of the stereotypes. Inspired by untold African stories, Panashe urged young people from all over the continent to start using different forms of media to create new stories that redefine the ‘Dark Continent’ narrative.
The rise of YouTube storymakers in 2014 saw for the first time young Africans controlling the narrative and sharing their lived experiences and the world through their eyes. This led to a powerful moment that would sweep the continent by a storm. In 2015, the hashtag #TheAfricaTheMediaNeverShowUs became popular and went viral on Twitter. Young Africans used the hashtag as a way to show the world positive images and narratives around African life. The hashtag attracted over 42,000 tweets and retweets. Take a peek at some of the tweets that trended.
These conversations have led to a more diverse media landscape both in the digital economy and mainstream media. The pioneers of this conversation laid a solid foundation, which has afforded today’s digital storymakers and traditional storymakers platforms to tell rich and authentic African stories informed by lived experiences and told through the lens of Africans.
Platforms globally have responded to this movement by empowering black African storytellers with outlets to articulate their stories and control their narratives. TikTok, in March 2021 introduced ‘TikTok rising movement’ A movement to support black South African creators and drive inclusivity. Rising Voices is an incubator project that was endorsed by the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF), an agency of the South African Department of Arts and Culture. 100 black creators, selected by a committee, were trained on how to make the best use of TikTok and create high-quality content. The training included career-building resources and necessary digital skills training from prominent industry experts. TikTok recently announced the ‘HOMECOMING Festival’ taking place in Lagos from 15- 18 April 2022. The event will be a celebration of Nigerian culture and diaspora link-ups across fashion, music, art and sports.
YouTube also recognises that black creators and storymakers have had a significant impact on culture. These innovators have driven the platform ahead in fields as diverse as fashion and humor, politics, education, and wellness. In 2020, YouTube announced the #YouTubeBlack Voices Fund, which was created to directly support black creators and artists so that they can thrive on YouTube. This resource has helped creators to hit subscriber milestones, lead meaningful discussions related to Black life and culture, and pursue new businesses.
Different organizations on the ground have also contributed to the transformation of the global perception of Africa. Digify Africa is one of the few organizations that is not only leading in conversations around the development of the digital economy but is also empowering young people to take charge of their skills and start creating meaningful change. The impact driven work that the organization engages has led to new opportunities for young people in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.
With the digital skills that Digify Africa is offering to young people, we can expect to see more young people on the continent contributing to these online movements that are empowering African communities.