Written by Niamh Griffin, w&m
Africa: Media and charities blamed for image of a continent in permanent crisis
Changes in Africa and the impact of overseas aid are not being effectively communicated to the public, a recent conference on development messages in Dublin has heard.
Organised by Dóchas, the umbrella group for Irish aid agencies and IDEA (the Irish Development Education Association), speakers addressed the findings of a survey into Ireland’s attitude to overseas aid.
The IPSOS/MRBI poll found while 88 per cent of those surveyed are proud of the general aid programme, awareness of aid and its effect was low.
Many of those questioned (44%) thought Africa had not changed in 20 years (31%) or was worse off (14%). But this stands in sharp contrast to reports from the World Bank, McKinsey and The Economist showing dramatic improvements during this time in some parts of the region.
UN data on child mortality show that under-5 mortality dropped rapidly in sub-Saharan Africa over the last 20 years, and at an increasing rate: the rate of decline doubled from 1.2 per cent a year during 1990-2000 to 2.4 per cent a year during 2000-2010. The fall in child mortality in Africa was described recently by The Economist as "the best story in development".
“This research suggests that, despite clear progress in many developing countries, the good news stories from Africa are not reaching the general public. We now need a broader approach to informing the Irish people about the contribution that we in Ireland are making around the world,” the head of Dochas, Hans Zomer said.
The conference addressed a number of possible reasons for this disconnect according to Zomer.
The first is the survey showed most people learn about developing countries in the news, and news by its nature tends to focus on crisis events such as war or famine. Zomer said this can lead to countries like Somalia dominating headlines while prospering Ghana rarely features.