Africa’s image in Turkish Media

Africa, which has only been associated with negative words like poverty, famine and conflict until recently and encompasses 33 of the 48 least developed countries in the world, also includes the most rapidly growing countries.


“Hopeful Continent: Africa on the Rise”
In this context, the rigid concept that “poverty is the continent’s unchangeable fate” is replaced by hope. In its 2000 May issue, The Economist carried Africa to its cover with a story headlined “Hopeless Continent,” emphasizing the region’s colonial past, socio-economic problems and ongoing conflicts. In its December 2011 issue however, the magazine’s headline was “Hopeful Continent: Africa on the Rise,” which was a natural result of change and development in the region.
Considering the developments since 1998, it is obvious that Turkey’s political and economic initiatives towards Africa have gained successful results. For instance, thanks to important steps taken between 2005 and 2008 in terms of bilateral and multilateral relations, Turkey was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2009-2010 period with support from the majority of African countries. The trade volume between Turkey and Africa, which was $9.6 billion in 2005, reached $16.8 billion in 2008. The recession in global economy in 2009 and 2010 affected commercial relations between Turkey and Africa. However, the $23 billion threshold has been passed in 2012. In terms of carrying Turkey’s relations with Africa into a larger platform, a national partnership participated by all socio-economic actors is needed. Countries acting in a decisive manner for carrying their relations with Africa appear in a larger platform with numerous actors.
For sustainable communication with Africa
The seventh and eight chapters of the “Cooperation Framework for Turkey-Africa” include issues on culture, education, media and communication. Consequently, the extent of Turkish public’s knowledge about Africa should be questioned objectively. Unfortunately, Africa is still represented to the Turkish public with agendas like the ongoing conflicts, health problems and food shortages. Moreover, news of the developments in the region have been provided from foreign news agencies and as a result, have been viewed and interpreted through the eyes of said agencies.
In an attempt to establish sustainable communication with Africa, the Turkey-Africa Media Forum was held in Ankara on May, 2012. Turkey’s Directorate General of Press and Information and Africa Media Initiative decided to initiate a journalist exchange programme. Following this initiative, the parties signed “the Declaration on the Establishment of Turkey-Africa Media Platform” and “Media Member Exchange Protocol” on November 7, 2012. However, there have not been any tangible gains from the initiative.  
The biggest problems in terms of communication is the lack of sustainable information flow about the developments in the region. For instance, the military coup in Mali, which happened in March 2012, and its aftermath was not covered in printed or visual media, while France’s intervention to the country in 2013 remained on the agenda for some time and was later forgotten. As a result, it was not possible to get a thorough understanding on what was exactly happening in the country. There are many similar examples.  
Success stories should be shared
Turkish media’s coverage of Africa within the context of Western news agencies and actors’ analyses is another shortcoming. Instead of focusing on what kind of opportunities the 2008 Turkey-Africa Cooperation Summit could present in terms of bilateral and multilateral relations, the media scrutinized Sudanese leader Omar Al Bashir, a figure on the firing line of Western countries, and his participation in the summit. While African leaders’ visits to our country do not appear on the media’s agenda, the news coverage of Burkina Faso’s Foreign and Regional Cooperation Minister’s fainting during a joint press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu last May is another interesting incident. On the other hand, the media’s effectiveness for raising social awareness and supporting the resolution of the continent’s problems was clearly seen during the Somali incident in 2011. Another important point here is that drawing attention to joint projects and investment opportunities instead of focusing on assistance and aids would be an appropriate approach. 
Moreover, while the opportunities Turkey’s membership to the African Development Bank would present to Turkish entrepreneurs were not even mentioned, conflicts in the countries like Central African Republic and South Sudan were widely and frequently covered a couple weeks later. In order to present African countries more objectively to the public, it is necessary that developments which could lead to opportunities, as well as success stories from the continent or individual countries should be shared. 
Today, a mutual lack of information in Turkish-African relations continues to be an obstacle to opportunities. In short, if Africa could be viewed from a wider perspective, concepts like development, success and potential would find their places next to conflict, famine, poverty and disaster.


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